Finishing up the Machine Learning Module

Well, the Machine Learning exam was this morning… another 5:30 am start to get to Manchester in plenty of time.

My Top Tip for distance learning today has to be: if you have to attend classes, labs, exams – you know, stuff that you can’t really afford to miss, aim to be there an hour early.

Today, I didn’t realise that the exam wasn’t in the same building that I’ve had every lecture, lab and exam so far. In fact, it was on the other side of the campus, and it’s not a small University. I was very glad of having 45 minutes from checking my information to the exam starting! Totally my own fault, of course – focussed on studying and the date and time of the exam, I made an assumption – but these things happen. If you’re there early and everything works out fine you have time to relax and centre yourself. On the other hand, if there is a problem, you’ll be very glad of that time.

The course itself was a fascinating introduction to several aspects of automated learning. Starting out with linear and nonlinear classifiers, moving on to decision trees, then probabilistic classifiers, unsupervised learning and finally sequence learning, we covered a large set of knowledge with significant maths pre-requisites.

Most of the material was quite approachable (now that I’m largely over my irrational fear of mathematical symbols – I wonder if there’s an official phobia for that?), with the notable exception of the probabilistic stuff. I’m not sure why I had such a problem with it and even after some serious digging in books I’m still not totally clear on some of it. More work needed there in the future, I fear.

Funny thing about the maths stuff – it has taken/is taking me a lot of effort to penetrate the notation. Once I can read it, though, the concept hiding underneath tends to be fairly intuitive. Go figure.

So how did the exam go? As with the last one, I can easily imagine how it might have been much tougher. Feels like it went OK, but you never know do you?

Anyway, now the immediate study pressure is off for a few weeks I’m hoping to catch up on some reading (right now, a quarter of the way through Code Complete 2, by Steve McConnell – I’d like to finish that off) and get a few more blog posts in.


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