MOOC Review : Machine Learning

So I completed the Machine learning course on Coursera recently; it’s my umpteenth MOOC Course and I actually do not know how many I have taken or want to take. Despite this,  I have only gotten three certificates so far; all my attempts at integrating Coursera courses into my schedule have not been successful. I have had to settle for auditing courses at my pace: at least I get to fulfill my goal insha Allaah: learning and understanding.

I took a couple of data mining courses during my master’s degree and have some experience with a variety of tools and programming languages (Octave, Weka). As grad students, we had to write our own classifiers and performance evaluators (kNN, Naive Bayes, ROC curves). Using Weka or similar tools/libraries would have saved us much trouble however our lecturer did not agree. I believe his approach was great as we were ‘forced’ to learn and got to really understand what the mathematics was all about.

Back to the Machine learning course, I think Professor Andrew Ng (Stanford) is simply awesome at what he does – everything is explained in really simple terms. He is also the guy behind the awesome autonomous helicopter video, haven’t seen it? Here is the link, go watch it!

It was refreshing to use Octave again, its elegant approach to numerical computation is mind-blowing – it makes it possible to get a lot done in a few lines. It also seems to handle the floating-point issue well (0.1 + 0.2 = 0.3). These features are impressive when compared to other languages; however every language has its strengths, weaknesses and application domains.

Alhamdulilaah I learned a great deal and refreshed my background in a variety of machine learning techniques and applications. It was nice to relearn the concepts of gradient and stochastic descent, clustering, overfitting and underfitting (bias and variance). There were a couple of new topics such as principal component analysis (beautifully explained), logistic regression, anomaly detection, recommender systems and support vector machines.

I struggled with the neural networks section and at times found the programming exercises quite challenging. It was a surprise (albeit a humbling one) to realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. The suggestions and advice on data mining are invaluable, he gave suggestions on setting up a processing pipeline, ceiling analysis, learning curves, error analysis and regularization and creating artificial data and dealing with massive datasets.

Overall I think it is a great course and Alhamdulilah I am glad to have taken it. The next challenge is to find some way to use these techniques – there is no better way to fully understand than to practice, not so?

Interested? Head over to Coursera and sign up. It is currently not running however you can either view the archives at your own pace or wait for a new run. I have also written on some other MOOCs too: Databases and Social Networks. Do check out this cool infographic too.

4 thoughts on “MOOC Review : Machine Learning

  1. Your blog inspires me a lot. I have registered for many MOOCs but I’ve only been able to complete two(one on Android development from Coursera, the other is on Python from edX) and the knowledge I got from them have always been useful.
    I tried Andrew Ng’s course too but it was sorta difficult to follow because of school work but hopefully school should end in a few months and I’ll complete all the ones I suspended.
    One thing that fascinated me while taking Andrew Ng’s course was the difference in the way tasks[programming paradigms] are carried out in MATLAB. Also it exposed me to the immense power of MATLAB.
    Just felt I should drop a comment.


    1. Thanks! I am pleased to hear that it is a source of inspiration.

      I actually stopped taking MOOCs because I do not have time and there is way too much to learn. However, I learnt a couple of things that did help me while I was taking those courses.

      I do hope you get to take the Machine Learning course once you get some free time – Professor Andrew Ng is a marvelous teacher and does know a lot about machine learning.

      Thank you for taking time to comment – I really do appreciate it.


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