Machine Learning is concerned with computer programs that automatically improve their performance through experience (e.g., programs that learn to recognize human faces, recommend music and movies, and drive autonomous robots). This course covers the theory and practical algorithms for machine learning from a variety of perspectives. We cover topics such as decision tree learning, neural networks, statistical learning methods, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. The course covers theoretical concepts such as inductive bias, the PAC learning framework, Bayesian learning methods, and Occam’s Razor. Programming assignments include hands-on experiments with various learning algorithms. This course is designed to give a graduate-level student a thorough grounding in the methodologies, technologies, mathematics and algorithms currently needed by people who do research in machine learning.
10-301 and 10-601 are identical. Undergraduates must register for 10-301 and graduate students must register for 10-601.
Learning Outcomes: By the end of the course, students should be able to:
For more details about topics covered, see the Schedule page.
Students entering the class are expected to have a pre-existing working knowledge of probability, linear algebra, statistics and algorithms, though the class has been designed to allow students with a strong numerate background to catch up and fully participate. In addition, recitation sessions will be held to review some basic concepts.
You need to have, before starting this course, significant experience programming in a general programming language. Specifically, you need to have written from scratch programs consisting of several hundred lines of code. For undergraduate students, this will be satisfied for example by having passed 15-122 (Principles of Imperative Computation) with a grade of ‘C’ or higher, or comparable courses or experience elsewhere.
Note: For each programming assignment, you will be required to use Python. You will be expected to know, or be able to quickly pick up, that programming language.
You need to have, before starting this course, basic familiarity with probability and statistics, as can be achieved at CMU by having passed 36-217 (Probability Theory and Random Processes) or 36-225 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics I), or 15-359, or 21-325, or comparable courses elsewhere, with a grade of ‘C’ or higher.
You need to have, before starting this course, college-level maturity in discrete mathematics, as can be achieved at CMU by having passed 21-127 (Concepts of Mathematics) or 15-151 (Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science), or comparable courses elsewhere, with a grade of ‘C’ or higher.
You must strictly adhere to these pre-requisites! Even if CMU’s registration system does not prevent you from registering for this course, it is still your responsibility to make sure you have all of these prerequisites before you register.
(Adapted from Roni Rosenfeld’s 10-601 Spring 2016 Course Policies.)
The core content of this course does not exactly follow any one textbook. However, several of the readings will come from the Murphy book (available free online via the library) and Daumé book (only available online). Some of the readings will include new chapters (available as free online PDFs) for the Mitchell book.
The textbook below is a great resource for those hoping to brush up on the prerequisite mathematics background for this course.
The requirements of this course consist of participating in lectures, midterm and final exams, homework assignments, and readings. The grading breakdown is the following:
Each individual component (e.g. an exam) may be curved upwards at the end. As well, the cutoffs above are merely an upper bound, at the end they may be adjusted down. We expect that the number of students that receive A’s (including A+, A, A-) is at least half the number of students that take the midterm exam(s). The number of B’s (including B+, B, B-) will be at least two-thirds the number of A’s.
Unless otherwise noted, all exams are closed-book.
You are required to attend all the exams. The midterm exam(s) will be given in the evening – not in class. The final exam will be scheduled by the registrar sometime during the official final exams period. Please plan your travel accordingly as we will not be able accommodate individual travel needs (e.g. by offering the exam early).
If you have an unavoidable conflict with an exam (e.g. an exam in another course), notify us by filling out “exam conflict” form. These Exam Conflict Forms are announced on Piazza before each exam.
If your conflict is with an exam in another course, please promptly email the following people to let them know of the exam conflict:
In the case of exam conflicts, we will discuss with the other course and suggest a resolution. One possible resolution is that we will accommodate you and will ask you to fill out the exam conflict form above. Please note that email should ONLY be used to address conflicts with an exam in another course. The definition of a final exam conflict and the standard procedures are described here: https://www.cmu.edu/hub/registrar/exams-and-grading/conflict-guidelines.html
The homeworks will divide into two types: programming and written. The programming assignments will ask you to implement ML algorithms from scratch; they emphasize understanding of real-world applications of ML, building end-to-end systems, and experimental design. The written assignments will focus on core concepts, “on-paper” implementations of classic learning algorithms, derivations, and understanding of theory.
More details are listed on the Coursework page.
LaTeX is a valuable tool for communicating machine learning concepts to others. In order to encourage you to use LaTeX, we will give you 1 bonus point on each homework that you write up entirely in LaTeX. We always release a LaTeX starter template.
We will be using Google Forms for in-class polls. Here’s how it will work:
Here are some important notes regarding grading of these polls:
Your submission of our various exit polls will also count towards your participation grade. There will be one exit poll for each homework assignment and one for each exam; these will be released alongside the corresponding homework assignment or the day after the corresponding exam. You will receive full credit for any exit poll filled in within one week of the homework assignment due date or exam date.
Practice Problems are optional. These problems will be released as a PDF. We will include the solutions for them as well. Some of these problems are exam-style and some are homework-style. The latter type are longer in form than we would typically include on an exam, but are still good practice.
Attendance at lectures is expected except for those with explicit approval to miss lectures due to course conflicts or timezone conflicts. At least one section will be livestreamed and recorded for later viewing.
Attendance at recitations (Friday sessions) is not required, but strongly encouraged. These sessions will be interactive and focus on problem solving; we strongly encourage you to actively participate. The recitations for at least one section will be livestreamed, and the recording will be available. A problem sheet will usually be released prior to the recitation. If you are unable to attend one or you missed an important detail, feel free to stop by office hours to ask the TAs about the content that was covered. Of course, we also encourage you to exchange notes with your peers.
The schedule for Office Hours will always appear on the Google Calendar on the Office Hours page.
Office Hours Locations:
All TA Office Hours will be held in-person in a large lecture hall.
Join the office hours queue and wait for a TA to accept your question.
Instructor office hours will (usually) be held immediately after class in-person just outside the lecture hall.
We encourage you to stick around and ask any questions you have about lecture material, homework problems, exam prepation, course logistics, etc.
TA Office Hours Protocols:
As a rule, we never release PDF solutions for any homework. Instead, we will hold a solution session in which we go through how to get the answers for the most challenging problems.
Note that video recordings of the solution sessions will only be available for 72 hours.
The purpose of the readings is to provide a broader and deeper foundation than just the lectures and assessments. The readings for this course are required. We recommend you read them after the lecture. Sometimes the readings include whole topics that are not mentioned in lecture; such topics will (in general) not appear on the exams, but we still encourage you to skim those portions.
Read this section carefully! First some context:
Background Test: In the first week of classes, we will give a Background Test, in-class. You are required to attend the Background Test in person. The purpose of this test is to assess your prerequisite knowledge. The test will roughly cover the following:
This is not a normal exam:
Background Exercises: Right after the test, we will release the Background Exercises (i.e. the written portion of Homework 1). This assignment will cover roughly the same content.
Grading Scheme: You will receive a single combined grade computed from the scores your earn on the Background Test and Background Exercises. The points you earn on the Background Exercises can only increase your Background Test scores.
Let \(\alpha = \) proportion of points the Background Test. Let \(\beta = \) proportion of points on the Background Exercises. Your overall score on Homework 1 (Written) \(\gamma\) is calculated as: \[ \gamma = \alpha + (1 - \alpha) \beta = \beta + (1 - \beta) \alpha \]
You can view the Background Test as a bonus points for the Background Exercises; or vice versa. If you get a zero on the Background Test, you could still get full marks by correctly solving the Background Exercises. Conversely, if you get many points on the Background Test, you can probably speed through the Background Exercises without much concern.
We use a variety of technologies:
We will use Piazza for all course discussion. Questions about homeworks, course content, logistics, etc. should all be directed to Piazza. If you have a question, chances are several others had the same question. By posting your question publicly on Piazza, the course staff can answer once and everyone benefits. If you have a private question, you should also use Piazza as it will likely receive a faster response.
We use Gradescope to collect PDF submissions of open-ended questions on the homework (e.g. mathematical derivations, plots, short answers). The course staff will manually grade your submission, and you’ll receive personalized feedback explaining your final marks.
You will also submit your code for programming questions on the homework to Gradescope. After uploading your code, our grading scripts will autograde your assignment by running your program on a VM. This provides you with immediate feedback on the performance of your submission.
Exams will have a scheduled time and a fixed time limit, and will be live proctored in-person.
Regrade Requests: If you believe an error was made during manual grading, you’ll be able to submit a regrade request on Gradescope. For each Gradescope artifact (e.g. homework, exam), regrade requests will be open for only 1 week after the grades have been published. This is to encourage you to check the feedback you’ve received early!
Manual Grading of Code: A major issue with autograders is that some submissions receive close to zero points after a student has invested heavily in a homework assignment, but failed to get points due to some small bug. For all of our programming homework assignments, we are going to give partial credit (through hand grading) to those submissions which received fewer than 75% of the available points on the autograder. The total number of points that such a submission will receive will not exceed 75% of the autograder points – so those assignments that we do not hand-grade will remain unaffected by this policy.
Lectures and recitations for at least one section will be livestreamed via Zoom.
Lecture and recitation video recordings for at least one section will be available on Panopto. The link to the Video Recordings is available in the “Links” dropdown and the recitation recordings will be available.
According to SquareTrade, one in three laptops fail over three years. That means your laptop is about to malfunction, perhaps catastrophically. As such, all of your work for this class must be backed up in the cloud. For example, everyone at CMU has unlimited storage on Google Drive and so your code can be backed up there. If you do your writeups in Overleaf, you’re already set. But, if you use a tablet, make sure your app is backing up your inked PDF. If you do your work on physical paper, snap an occasional (cloud stored) photo of it.
Late homework submissions are only eligible for 75% of the points the first day (24-hour period) after the deadline, 50% the second, and 25% the third.
You receive 6 total grace days for use on any homework assignment except HW1. We will automatically keep a tally of these grace days for you; they will be applied greedily. No assignment will be accepted more than 3 days after the deadline. This has two important implications: (1) you may not use more than 3 graces days on any single assignment (2) you may not combine grace days with the late policy above to submit more than 3 days late.
HW3, HW6, and HW9 will not be accepted more than 2 days after the deadline, so that we can hold the solution session before the subsequent exams. To ensure you receive graded feedback before the exams, you must submit HW3, HW6, HW9 on time.
All homework submissions are electronic (see Technologies section below). As such, lateness will be determined by the latest timestamp of any part of your submission. For example, suppose the homework requires two submission uploads – if you submit the first upload on time but the second upload 1 minute late, you entire homework will be penalized for the full 24-hour period.
In general, we do not grant extensions on assignments. There are several exceptions:
For any of the above situations, you may request an extension by emailing the Education Associate(s) at firstname.lastname@example.org – do not email the instructor or TAs. Please be specific about which assessment(s) you are requesting an extension for and the number of hours requested. The email should be sent as soon as you are aware of the conflict and at least 5 days prior to the deadline. In the case of an emergency, no notice is needed.
If this is a medical emergency or mental health crisis, you must also CC your CMU College Liaison and your academic advisor. Do not submit any medical documentation to the course staff. If necessary, your College Liaison and The Division of Student Affairs (DoSA) will request such documentation and they will view the health documentation and conclude whether a retroactive extension is appropriate. (If you haven’t interacted with your college liaison before, they are experienced Student Affairs staff who work in partnership with students, housefellows, advisors, faculty, and associate deans in each college to assure support for students regarding their overall Carnegie Mellon experience.)
Formal auditing of this course is permitted. However, we give priority to students taking the course for a letter grade.
You must follow the official procedures for a Course Audit as outlined by the HUB / registrar. Please do not email the instructor requesting permission to audit. Instead, you should first register for the appropriate section. Next fill out the Course Audit Approval form and obtain the instructor’s signature in-person (either at office hours or immediately after class).
Auditors are required to:
Auditors are encouraged to sit for the exams, but should only do so if they plan to put forth actual effort in solving them.
We allow you take the course as Pass/Fail. Instructor permission is not required. What letter grade is the cutoff for a Pass will depend on your specific program; we do not specify whether or not you Pass but rather we compute your letter grade the same as everyone else in the class (i.e. using the cutoffs listed above) and your program converts that letter grade to a Pass or Fail depending on their cutoff. Be sure to check with your program / department as to whether you can count a Pass/Fail course towards your degree requirements.
If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, please email the Education Associate(s) at email@example.com requesting to set up a meeting with them to discuss your accommodations and needs as early in the semester as possible. The EAs will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read this carefully!
You are absolutely not allowed to share/compare answers or screen share your work with one another.
Some of the homework assignments used in this class may have been used in prior versions of this class, or in classes at other institutions, or elsewhere. Solutions to them may be, or may have been, available online, or from other people or sources. It is explicitly forbidden to use any such sources, or to consult people who have solved these problems before. It is explicitly forbidden to search for these problems or their solutions on the internet. You must solve the homework assignments completely on your own. We will be actively monitoring your compliance. Collaboration with other students who are currently taking the class is allowed, but only under the conditions stated above.
You are not permitted to seek assistance from an artificial intelligence system (e.g., a large language model such as ChatGPT).
You are encouraged to read books and other instructional materials, both online and offline, to help you understand the concepts and algorithms taught in class. These materials may contain example code or pseudo code, which may help you better understand an algorithm or an implementation detail. However, when you implement your own solution to an assignment, you must put all materials aside, and write your code completely on your own, starting “from scratch”. Specifically, you may not use any code you found or came across. If you find or come across code that implements any part of your assignment, you must disclose this fact in your collaboration statement.
Students are responsible for pro-actively protecting their work from copying and misuse by other students. If a student’s work is copied by another student, the original author is also considered to be at fault and in gross violation of the course policies. It does not matter whether the author allowed the work to be copied or was merely negligent in preventing it from being copied. When overlapping work is submitted by different students, both students will be punished.
To protect future students, do not post your solutions publicly, neither during the course nor afterwards.
All violations (even first one) of course policies will always be reported to the university authorities (your Department Head, Associate Dean, Dean of Student Affairs, etc.) as an official Academic Integrity Violation and will carry severe penalties.
The penalty for the first violation is a negative 100% on the assignment (i.e. it would have been better to submit nothing and receive a 0%).
The penalty for the second violation is failure in the course, and can even lead to dismissal from the university.
(The above policies are adapted from Roni Rosenfeld’s 10-601 Spring 2016 Course Policies.)
Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.
All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.
If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:
If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let the instructors know.
We must treat every individual with respect. We are diverse in many ways, and this diversity is fundamental to building and maintaining an equitable and inclusive campus community. Diversity can refer to multiple ways that we identify ourselves, including but not limited to race, color, national origin, language, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, belief, veteran status, or genetic information. Each of these diverse identities, along with many others not mentioned here, shape the perspectives our students, faculty, and staff bring to our campus. We, at CMU, will work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion not only because diversity fuels excellence and innovation, but because we want to pursue justice. We acknowledge our imperfections while we also fully commit to the work, inside and outside of our classrooms, of building and sustaining a campus community that increasingly embraces these core values.
Each of us is responsible for creating a safer, more inclusive environment.
Unfortunately, incidents of bias or discrimination do occur, whether intentional or unintentional. They contribute to creating an unwelcoming environment for individuals and groups at the university. Therefore, the university encourages anyone who experiences or observes unfair or hostile treatment on the basis of identity to speak out for justice and support, within the moment of the incident or after the incident has passed. Anyone can share these experiences using the following resources:
All reports will be documented and deliberated to determine if there should be any following actions. Regardless of incident type, the university will use all shared experiences to transform our campus climate to be more equitable and just.
For this class, we are conducting research on teaching and learning. This research will involve some student work. You will not be asked to do anything above and beyond the normal learning activities and assignments that are part of this course. You are free not to participate in this research, and your participation will have no influence on your grade for this course or your academic career at CMU. If you do not wish to participate, please send an email to Chad Hershock (email@example.com). Participants will not receive any compensation. The data collected as part of this research will include student grades. All analyses of data from participants’ coursework will be conducted after the course is over and final grades are submitted. The Eberly Center may provide support on this research project regarding data analysis and interpretation. The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation is located on the CMU-Pittsburgh Campus and its mission is to support the professional development of all CMU instructors regarding teaching and learning. To minimize the risk of breach of confidentiality, the Eberly Center will never have access to data from this course containing your personal identifiers. All data will be analyzed in de-identified form and presented in the aggregate, without any personal identifiers. If you have questions pertaining to your rights as a research participant, or to report concerns to this study, please contact Chad Hershock (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please feel free to reuse any of these course materials that you find of use in your own courses. We ask that you retain any copyright notices, and include written notice indicating the source of any materials you use.