It didn’t surprise me a few weeks into starting work at Unity that Reinforcement Learning would be a useful thing to know at least a little about. So I started studying the fundamentals of Reinforcement Learning from what seemed to be the most recommended reference on the subject – Reinforcement Learning: An Introduction by Sutton & Barto. I must acknowledge that this is a fantastic read and so thoroughly explained. It did take me several revisions of certain topics to read what is implied between the lines, which happens to be quite a lot of useful insights and information, but overall this textbook covers RL theory very very well!
After having spent a few weeks going through the chapters on the Dynamic Programming, Markov-Chain Monte-Carlo and Temporal Difference methods, I felt that I could use some hands-on practice to take the message home and, as always, I looked up Coursera to find the course Practical Reinforcement Learning. It took me more than a month (nearly two) to get through this course. This was partly because I was making sure to review the same material covered in the course in the reference textbook as well, which was very useful. And partly because the course material itself didn’t feel very up to the mark. I felt that in wanting to cover a vast amount of topics in the span of a single course, things got quite rushed. And the assignments were also not very well explained, and offered very little feedback in terms of what was wrong, which made it incredibly frustrating to get through them. To be honest, about half-way into the course I was no longer enjoying it, and was eager to just be done with it ASAP. And that’s exactly what happened. I can’t say I’m very thorough with any of the material covered in weeks 5 and 6, which I would definitely like to revisit in the future.
That being said, Reinforcement Learning is actually one of the most interesting topics in Computer Science / Machine Learning that I have done and I really do hope I have the opportunity to do something interesting using it in the future. And, of course, here’s the certificate that I completed the Coursera course (phew!).