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The Magazine

👩‍💻 Welcome to OPIT’s blog! You will find relevant news on the education and computer science industry.

New OPIT Degrees launching (soon)!
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Riccardo Ocleppo
November 29, 2023

 

Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.

🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)

Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.

🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)

Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.

💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!

We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Advanced AI
  • Digital Business
  • Metaverse & Gaming
  • Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).

🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)

With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.

🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch

We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Five Reasons to Study Online at OPIT
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
November 29, 2023

Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.

The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.

In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.

Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).

Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?

Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.

Reason 1 – A Practical Approach

OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.

“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.

OPIT takes a different approach.

It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.

An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.

Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support

Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.

You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.

Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.

Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.

In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.

You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.




Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly

The field of computer science is constantly evolving.

In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.

Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.

“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.

That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.

When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.

This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.

Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education

Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.

“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.

OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.

It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.

Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.

Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.

Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.

Reason 5 – The Learning Experience

Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.

After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.

Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.

OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.

Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education

At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.

There’s also more to come.

Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.




		
								
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OPIT Academic Year Inauguration, Sept. 12th
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
August 31, 2023

With immense pride and anticipation, we announce the inaugural event for the OPIT – Open Institute of Technology academic year. As pioneers in the new era of Higher Education, this event encapsulates the very ethos of what OPIT represents. Not just an event, but the commencement of a journey to pave the way for the next generation of leaders in the field of IT.

Event Details

  • Date: September 12th, 2023
  • Time: 5.00-6.00 PM CEST
  • Platform: Online
  • Registration: Link

Event Schedule

  1. Official Introduction: Mr. Riccardo Ocleppo, the founder of OPIT, paints a picture of the Institution’s foundational pillars and what prospective students can expect from their academic journey.
  2. Learning Model Presentation: Prof. Francesco Profumo, our esteemed Rector, delves deep into the heart of OPIT’s avant-garde learning experience, shedding light on its core tenets and alignment with the demands of the contemporary job market.
  3. Accreditation and Quality Assurance: The Malta Minister of Education, Dr. Clifton Grima, offers insights into the robust educational framework of Malta and the stringent quality assurance measures in place.
  4. The Future of Jobs in the Era of AI: Prof. Alexiei Dingli navigates the evolving terrains of the job market under the shadow of AI’s relentless march, emphasizing the pivotal role of institutions like OPIT.
  5. The Impact of Digitalization on a Global Scale: Dr. Bernardo Calzadilla Sarmiento, former Managing Director of UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) offers a panoramic view of the digital revolution sweeping across the globe and its profound implications on industry, economy, and education.
  6. Q&A Session: Led by Greta Maiocchi, the Head of Admissions at OPIT, this segment is dedicated to addressing queries, clearing doubts, and facilitating an open dialogue.

 

 

In a world where AI and digital innovation are reshaping boundaries, institutions like OPIT emerge as guiding lights. Join us at this pivotal juncture as we navigate the AI-driven future, fortified by our dedication to education, foresight, and ambition.

Join us in marking the beginning of an era. Let’s shape the future, together.

Register here for the event.

 

 

 

 

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What is the Educational Model That Students Prefer?
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
August 08, 2023

For 68% of Italian students, the perfect training opens up the world of work and connects them to companies. And 72% of students prefer the hybrid educational model.

The data comes from a survey of 1,600 members of the Docsity community by OPIT – The Open Institute of Technology.

OPIT founder Riccardo Ocleppo states: “Students need more practical learning and skills that allow for a faster and more profitable entry into a company.”


Milan, 19 June 2023 – Italian students aged between 18 and 26 prefer educational and training offerings based on the hybrid models and a focus on up-to-date training provided by quality teaching staff. They’re also less likely to believe that the name of a university is enough to guarantee job opportunities upon graduating. These are some of the chief findings to emerge from an OPIT survey of 1,600 students (secondary level and university) who are part of the Docsity community – a platform for sharing documents and interesting content – just a few days before the beginning of final exams.


The results show that students consider job opportunities and connections with companies as the main factors when evaluating study opportunities (68%). Cost is also an important criterion (39.6%), as is the updating of teaching methods and practical aspects of the course to ensure they’re aligned with today’s work environment (33.1%). Furthermore, 21.7% of those surveyed note the quality of the teaching staff as being crucial to helping them absorb the skills they need to succeed as workers in the future. The “name” and reputation of a university of training provider only matters to 13% of those surveyed.


“The data confirms what we had foreseen when we decided to enter the education market,” says OPIT’s founder and director Riccardo Ocleppo. “Involving companies in our programs was a top priority, and their insights were instrumental in designing the modules we created, including what technologies to rely on and the programming languages we work with, for example.”


“By working with companies to design our programs, we’ve found that students both require and prefer a much more hands-on learning experience. This ensures they’re up to date on current technologies, processes, and ways of working when they join a company. So, our goal for our students is that they leave OPIT feeling much more knowledgeable about what employers really need from them.”


As far as learning methods are concerned, students prefer the hybrid model – having the opportunity to participate in face-to-face lessons while retaining the flexibility to access course content online or even via a fully remote model based on their needs.  Amongst university students, 72.6% say they prefer the hybrid model, unlike secondary students, who retain a preference for my “physical” styles of teaching.


When secondary students were asked about their choice of university, 46% of boys and girls indicated engineering, computer science, and STEM as their preferred fields. Humanities and communication followed (20.6%), with economics taking the third spot (17.9%).


“Rapid developments in technology and artificial intelligence,” continues Ocleppo, “are creating new job opportunities for STEM graduates, which current students clearly understand. Specific skills are becoming increasingly important as enterprises move more and more to make the most out of the changes brought by AI. Yet, the shortage of tech workers is expected to grow even faster in the coming years. Despite the concern that the wave of AI-inspired technologies is creating, there is no doubt there will be demand for certain types of professionals with specific technical skills.”




OPIT’s data also indicates a widespread trend toward the continuation of studies beyond initial certification, belying the more pessimistic readings on the growth of the NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) phenomenon. Enrolling in a degree course remains both the safest and preferred choice for the majority of secondary school students – 82% confirmed their intention to continue their studies at the university level. A further 8.3% are undecided about university, while 5% will choose short training courses, with only 2.5% of students surveyed saying they’ll stop education after their fifth-grade exams. Accredited training (university, business school, or some other form of higher education) remains the preferred choice of almost all students (94.6%).


Delving deeper into a behavioral analysis of university students, an interesting preference for further continuation of studies emerges. Over two-thirds (68%) say they wish to continue, demonstrating that a Bachelor’s degree alone is not seen as the ideal pathway into the world of work. In fact, of those who declared a willingness to continue studying after submitting their Bachelor’s thesis, 90% said they want to enroll in a new long-term study program – either a second Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree. It’s also significant that more university students are undecided about continuing their educations (22%) than those who are convinced they’ll finish studying permanently upon completion of their degrees (10%).


Asked about what will be most important in a future where they will have to grapple with various AI-led transitions, over half of students (56%) believe it’s essential to understand artificial intelligence and its applications. This was followed by digital marketing (42%), with cybersecurity identified by one in three students (35%) as key due to the job opportunities in that field linked to the need to protect growing amounts of personal data. Fintech closed this ranking at 3%.


OPIT – Open Institute of Technology is an academic institution accredited at the European level that provides an exclusively online training offer focused on Computer Science and a teaching staff made up of professors of international standing. OPIT stands out in the panorama of university-level training for a didactic model shaped by the need for quality, flexibility, and connection with the business world of upcoming generations. OPIT’s degree programs are oriented towards the acquisition of modern and up-to-date skills in the crucial sector of computer science. Its degrees are accredited by the MFHEA and the EQF (European Qualification Framework), and professionally recognized by employers.

https://www.opit.com/ 

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The AI ​​Era Requires a More Flexible and Affordable Model for Higher Education
Francesco Profumo
Francesco Profumo
August 01, 2023

AI, and its integration with society, had an incredible acceleration in recent months. By now, it seems certain that AI will be the fourth GPT (General Purpose Technology) of human history: one of those few technologies or inventions that radically and indelibly change society. The last of these technologies was ICT (internet, semiconductor industry, telecommunications); before this, electricity and the steam engine were the first 2 GPTs.


All three GPTs had a huge impact on the overall productivity and advancement of our society with, of course, a profound impact on the world of work. Such an impact, though, was very different across these technologies. The advent of electricity and the steam motor allowed the displacement of large masses of workers from more archaic and manual jobs to their equivalent jobs in the new industrial era, where not many skills were required. The advent of ICT, on the other hand, has generated enormous job opportunities, but also the need to develop meaningful skills to pursue them.


As a result, an increasingly large share of the economic benefit deriving from the advent of ICT has gradually been polarized towards people who had (and have) these skills in society. Suffice it to say that, already in 2017, the richest 1% of America owned twice the wealth of the “poorest” 90%.


It is difficult to make predictions about how the advent of AI will impact this trend already underway. But there are some very clear elements: one of these is that quality education in technology (and not only) will increasingly play a primary role in being able to secure the best career opportunities for a successful future in this new era.


To play a “lead actor” role in this change, though, the world of education – and in particular that of undergraduate and postgraduate education – requires a huge change towards being much more flexible, aligned to today’s needs of students and companies, and affordable.



Let’s take a step back: we grew up thinking that “learning” meant following a set path. Enroll in elementary school, attend middle and high school, and, for the luckiest or most ambitious, conclude by taking a degree.


This model needs to be seriously challenged and adapted to the times: solid foundational learning remains an essential prerogative. But in a “fast” world in rapid change like today’s, knowledge acquired along this “linear” path will not be able to accompany people in their professions until the end of their careers. The “utility period” of the knowledge we acquire today reduces every day, and this emphasizes how essential continuous learning is throughout our lives.


The transition must therefore be towards a more circular pattern for learning. A model in which one returns “to the school desk” several times in life, in order to update oneself, and forget “obsolete” knowledge, making room for new production models, new ways of thinking, organizing, and new technologies.


In this context, Education providers must rethink the way they operate and how they intend to address this need for lifelong learning.


Higher Education Institutions, as accredited bodies and guarantors of the quality of education (OPIT – Open Institute of Technology among these), have the honor of playing a primary role in this transition.


But also the great burden of rethinking their model from scratch which, in a digital age, cannot be a pure and simple digital transposition of the old analog learning model.


The Institutions Universities are called upon to review and keep updated their own study programmes, think of new, more flexible and faster ways of offering them to a wider public, forge greater connections with companies, and ultimately provide them with students who are immediately ready to successfully enter the dynamics of production. And, of course, be more affordable and accessible: quality education in the AI era cannot cost tens of thousands of dollars, and needs to be accessed from wherever the students are.


With OPIT – Open Institute of Technology, this is the path we have taken, taking advantage of the great privilege of being able to start a new path, without preconceptions or “attachment” to the past. We envision a model of a new, digital-first, higher education institution capable of addressing all the points above, and accompany students and professionals throughout their lifetime learning journey.


We are at the beginning, and we hope that the modern and fresh approach we are following can be an interesting starting point for other universities as well.




Authors


Prof. Francesco Profumo, Rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
Former Minister of Education, University and Research of Italy, Academician and author, former President of the National Research Council of Italy, and former Rector of Politecnico di Torino. He is an honorary member of various scientific associations.


Riccardo Ocleppo, Managing Director of OPIT
Founder of OPIT, Founder of Docsity.com, one of the biggest online communities for students with 19+ registered users. MSc in Management at London Business School, MSc in Electronics Engineering at Politecnico di Torino

Prof. Lorenzo Livi, Programme Head at OPIT
Former Associate Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Manitoba, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter, Ph.D. in Computer Science at Università La Sapienza.


		
								
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The Future of Work in the Era of Computer Science and AI
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
July 18, 2023

A Practical Guide to Thriving in Today’s Job Market Powered by AI and Computer Science

Click this link to read and download the e-book.

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Reinforcement Learning: AI Algorithms, Types & Examples
Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta
July 02, 2023

Reinforcement learning is a very useful (and currently popular) subtype of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is based on the principle that agents, when placed in an interactive environment, can learn from their actions via rewards associated with the actions, and improve the time to achieve their goal.

In this article, we’ll explore the fundamental concepts of reinforcement learning and discuss its key components, types, and applications.

Definition of Reinforcement Learning

We can define reinforcement learning as a machine learning technique involving an agent who needs to decide which actions it needs to do to perform a task that has been assigned to it most effectively. For this, rewards are assigned to the different actions that the agent can take at different situations or states of the environment. Initially, the agent has no idea about the best or correct actions. Using reinforcement learning, it explores its action choices via trial and error and figures out the best set of actions for completing its assigned task.

The basic idea behind a reinforcement learning agent is to learn from experience. Just like humans learn lessons from their past successes and mistakes, reinforcement learning agents do the same – when they do something “good” they get a reward, but, if they do something “bad”, they get penalized. The reward reinforces the good actions while the penalty avoids the bad ones.

Reinforcement learning requires several key components:

  • Agent – This is the “who” or the subject of the process, which performs different actions to perform a task that has been assigned to it.
  • Environment – This is the “where” or a situation in which the agent is placed.
  • Actions – This is the “what” or the steps an agent needs to take to reach the goal.
  • Rewards – This is the feedback an agent receives after performing an action.

Before we dig deep into the technicalities, let’s warm up with a real-life example. Reinforcement isn’t new, and we’ve used it for different purposes for centuries. One of the most basic examples is dog training.

Let’s say you’re in a park, trying to teach your dog to fetch a ball. In this case, the dog is the agent, and the park is the environment. Once you throw the ball, the dog will run to catch it, and that’s the action part. When he brings the ball back to you and releases it, he’ll get a reward (a treat). Since he got a reward, the dog will understand that his actions were appropriate and will repeat them in the future. If the dog doesn’t bring the ball back, he may get some “punishment” – you may ignore him or say “No!” After a few attempts (or more than a few, depending on how stubborn your dog is), the dog will fetch the ball with ease.

We can say that the reinforcement learning process has three steps:

  1. Interaction
  2. Learning
  3. Decision-making

Types of Reinforcement Learning

There are two types of reinforcement learning: model-based and model-free.

Model-Based Reinforcement Learning

With model-based reinforcement learning (RL), there’s a model that an agent uses to create additional experiences. Think of this model as a mental image that the agent can analyze to assess whether particular strategies could work.

Some of the advantages of this RL type are:

  • It doesn’t need a lot of samples.
  • It can save time.
  • It offers a safe environment for testing and exploration.

The potential drawbacks are:

  • Its performance relies on the model. If the model isn’t good, the performance won’t be good either.
  • It’s quite complex.

Model-Free Reinforcement Learning

In this case, an agent doesn’t rely on a model. Instead, the basis for its actions lies in direct interactions with the environment. An agent tries different scenarios and tests whether they’re successful. If yes, the agent will keep repeating them. If not, it will try another scenario until it finds the right one.

What are the advantages of model-free reinforcement learning?

  • It doesn’t depend on a model’s accuracy.
  • It’s not as computationally complex as model-based RL.
  • It’s often better for real-life situations.

Some of the drawbacks are:

  • It requires more exploration, so it can be more time-consuming.
  • It can be dangerous because it relies on real-life interactions.

Model-Based vs. Model-Free Reinforcement Learning: Example

Understanding model-based and model-free RL can be challenging because they often seem too complex and abstract. We’ll try to make the concepts easier to understand through a real-life example.

Let’s say you have two soccer teams that have never played each other before. Therefore, neither of the teams knows what to expect. At the beginning of the match, Team A tries different strategies to see whether they can score a goal. When they find a strategy that works, they’ll keep using it to score more goals. This is model-free reinforcement learning.

On the other hand, Team B came prepared. They spent hours investigating strategies and examining the opponent. The players came up with tactics based on their interpretation of how Team A will play. This is model-based reinforcement learning.

Who will be more successful? There’s no way to tell. Team B may be more successful in the beginning because they have previous knowledge. But Team A can catch up quickly, especially if they use the right tactics from the start.

Reinforcement Learning Algorithms

A reinforcement learning algorithm specifies how an agent learns suitable actions from the rewards. RL algorithms are divided into two categories: value-based and policy gradient-based.

Value-Based Algorithms

Value-based algorithms learn the value at each state of the environment, where the value of a state is given by the expected rewards to complete the task while starting from that state.

Q-Learning

This model-free, off-policy RL algorithm focuses on providing guidelines to the agent on what actions to take and under what circumstances to win the reward. The algorithm uses Q-tables in which it calculates the potential rewards for different state-action pairs in the environment. The table contains Q-values that get updated after each action during the agent’s training. During execution, the agent goes back to this table to see which actions have the best value.

Deep Q-Networks (DQN)

Deep Q-networks, or deep q-learning, operate similarly to q-learning. The main difference is that the algorithm in this case is based on neural networks.

SARSA

The acronym stands for state-action-reward-state-action. SARSA is an on-policy RL algorithm that uses the current action from the current policy to learn the value.

Policy-Based Algorithms

These algorithms directly update the policy to maximize the reward. There are different policy gradient-based algorithms: REINFORCE, proximal policy optimization, trust region policy optimization, actor-critic algorithms, advantage actor-critic, deep deterministic policy gradient (DDPG), and twin-delayed DDPG.

Examples of Reinforcement Learning Applications

The advantages of reinforcement learning have been recognized in many spheres. Here are several concrete applications of RL.

Robotics and Automation

With RL, robotic arms can be trained to perform human-like tasks. Robotic arms can give you a hand in warehouse management, packaging, quality testing, defect inspection, and many other aspects.

Another notable role of RL lies in automation, and self-driving cars are an excellent example. They’re introduced to different situations through which they learn how to behave in specific circumstances and offer better performance.

Gaming and Entertainment

Gaming and entertainment industries certainly benefit from RL in many ways. From AlphaGo (the first program that has beaten a human in the board game Go) to video games AI, RL offers limitless possibilities.

Finance and Trading

RL can optimize and improve trading strategies, help with portfolio management, minimize risks that come with running a business, and maximize profit.

Healthcare and Medicine

RL can help healthcare workers customize the best treatment plan for their patients, focusing on personalization. It can also play a major role in drug discovery and testing, allowing the entire sector to get one step closer to curing patients quickly and efficiently.

Basics for Implementing Reinforcement Learning

The success of reinforcement learning in a specific area depends on many factors.

First, you need to analyze a specific situation and see which RL algorithm suits it. Your job doesn’t end there; now you need to define the environment and the agent and figure out the right reward system. Without them, RL doesn’t exist. Next, allow the agent to put its detective cap on and explore new features, but ensure it uses the existing knowledge adequately (strike the right balance between exploration and exploitation). Since RL changes rapidly, you want to keep your model updated. Examine it every now and then to see what you can tweak to keep your model in top shape.

Explore the World of Possibilities With Reinforcement Learning

Reinforcement learning goes hand-in-hand with the development and modernization of many industries. We’ve been witnesses to the incredible things RL can achieve when used correctly, and the future looks even better. Hop in on the RL train and immerse yourself in this fascinating world.

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Understanding Algorithm: The Design, Analysis, and Impact
Raj Dasgupta
Raj Dasgupta
July 02, 2023

Algorithms are the backbone behind technology that have helped establish some of the world’s most famous companies. Software giants like Google, beverage giants Coca Cola and many other organizations utilize proprietary algorithms to improve their services and enhance customer experience. Algorithms are an inseparable part of the technology behind organization as they help improve security, product or service recommendations, and increase sales.

Knowing the benefits of algorithms is useful, but you might also be interested to know what makes them so advantageous. As such, you’re probably asking: “What is an algorithm?” Here’s the most common algorithm definition: an algorithm is a set of procedures and rules a computer follows to solve a problem.

In addition to the meaning of the word “algorithm,” this article will also cover the key types and characteristics of algorithms, as well as their applications.

Types of Algorithms and Design Techniques

One of the main reasons people rely on algorithms is that they offer a principled and structured means to represent a problem on a computer.

Recursive Algorithms

Recursive algorithms are critical for solving many problems. The core idea behind recursive algorithms is to use functions that call themselves on smaller chunks of the problem.

Divide and Conquer Algorithms

Divide and conquer algorithms are similar to recursive algorithms. They divide a large problem into smaller units. Algorithms solve each smaller component before combining them to tackle the original, large problem.

Greedy Algorithms

A greedy algorithm looks for solutions based on benefits. More specifically, it resolves problems in sections by determining how many benefits it can extract by analyzing a certain section. The more benefits it has, the more likely it is to solve a problem, hence the term greedy.

Dynamic Programming Algorithms

Dynamic programming algorithms follow a similar approach to recursive and divide and conquer algorithms. First, they break down a complex problem into smaller pieces. Next, it solves each smaller piece once and saves the solution for later use instead of computing it.

Backtracking Algorithms

After dividing a problem, an algorithm may have trouble moving forward to find a solution. If that’s the case, a backtracking algorithm can return to parts of the problem it has already solved until it determines a way forward that can overcome the setback.

Brute Force Algorithms

Brute force algorithms try every possible solution until they determine the best one. Brute force algorithms are simpler, but the solution they find might not be as good or elegant as those found by the other types of algorithms.

Algorithm Analysis and Optimization

Digital transformation remains one of the biggest challenges for businesses in 2023. Algorithms can facilitate the transition through careful analysis and optimization.

Time Complexity

The time complexity of an algorithm refers to how long you need to execute a certain algorithm. A number of factors determine time complexity, but the algorithm’s input length is the most important consideration.

Space Complexity

Before you can run an algorithm, you need to make sure your device has enough memory. The amount of memory required for executing an algorithm is known as space complexity.

Trade-Offs

Solving a problem with an algorithm in C or any other programming language is about making compromises. In other words, the system often makes trade-offs between the time and space available.

For example, an algorithm can use less space, but this extends the time it takes to solve a problem. Alternatively, it can take up a lot of space to address an issue faster.

Optimization Techniques

Algorithms generally work great out of the box, but they sometimes fail to deliver the desired results. In these cases, you can implement a slew of optimization techniques to make them more effective.

Memorization

You generally use memorization if you wish to elevate the efficacy of a recursive algorithm. The technique rewrites algorithms and stores them in arrays. The main reason memorization is so powerful is that it eliminates the need to calculate results multiple times.

Parallelization

As the name suggests, parallelization is the ability of algorithms to perform operations simultaneously. This accelerates task completion and is normally utilized when you have a lot of memory on your device.

Heuristics

Heuristic algorithms (a.k.a. heuristics) are algorithms used to speed up problem-solving. They generally target non-deterministic polynomial-time (NP) problems.

Approximation Algorithms

Another way to solve a problem if you’re short on time is to incorporate an approximation algorithm. Rather than provide a 100% optimal solution and risk taking longer, you use this algorithm to get approximate solutions. From there, you can calculate how far away they are from the optimal solution.

Pruning

Algorithms sometimes analyze unnecessary data, slowing down your task completion. A great way to expedite the process is to utilize pruning. This compression method removes unwanted information by shrinking algorithm decision trees.

Algorithm Applications and Challenges

Thanks to this introduction to algorithm, you’ll no longer wonder: “What is an algorithm, and what are the different types?” Now it’s time to go through the most significant applications and challenges of algorithms.

Sorting Algorithms

Sorting algorithms arrange elements in a series to help solve complex issues faster. There are different types of sorting, including linear, insertion, and bubble sorting. They’re generally used for exploring databases and virtual search spaces.

Searching Algorithms

An algorithm in C or other programming languages can be used as a searching algorithm. They allow you to identify a small item in a large group of related elements.

Graph Algorithms

Graph algorithms are just as practical, if not more practical, than other types. Graphs consist of nodes and edges, where each edge connects two nodes.

There are numerous real-life applications of graph algorithms. For instance, you might have wondered how engineers solve problems regarding wireless networks or city traffic. The answer lies in using graph algorithms.

The same goes for social media sites, such as Facebook. Algorithms on such platforms contain nodes, which represent key information, like names and genders and edges that represent the relationships or dependencies between them.

Cryptography Algorithms

When creating an account on some websites, the platform can generate a random password for you. It’s usually stronger than custom-made codes, thanks to cryptography algorithms. They can scramble digital text and turn it into an unreadable string. Many organizations use this method to protect their data and prevent unauthorized access.

Machine Learning Algorithms

Over 70% of enterprises prioritize machine learning applications. To implement their ideas, they rely on machine learning algorithms. They’re particularly useful for financial institutions because they can predict future trends.

Famous Algorithm Challenges

Many organizations struggle to adopt algorithms, be it an algorithm in data structure or computer science. The reason being, algorithms present several challenges:

  • Opacity – You can’t take a closer look at the inside of an algorithm. Only the end result is visible, which is why it’s difficult to understand an algorithm.
  • Heterogeneity – Most algorithms are heterogeneous, behaving differently from one another. This makes them even more complex.
  • Dependency – Each algorithm comes with the abovementioned time and space restrictions.

Algorithm Ethics, Fairness, and Social Impact

When discussing critical characteristics of algorithms, it’s important to highlight the main concerns surrounding this technology.

Bias in Algorithms

Algorithms aren’t intrinsically biased unless the developer injects their personal biases into the design. If so, getting impartial results from an algorithm is highly unlikely.

Transparency and Explainability

Knowing only the consequences of algorithms prevents us from explaining them in detail. A transparent algorithm enables a user to view and understand its different operations. In contrast, explainability of an algorithm relates to its ability to provide reasons for the decisions it makes.

Privacy and Security

Some algorithms require end users to share private information. If cyber criminals hack the system, they can easily steal the data.

Algorithm Accessibility and Inclusivity

Limited explainability hinders access to algorithms. Likewise, it’s hard to include different viewpoints and characteristics in an algorithm, especially if it is biased.

Algorithm Trust and Confidence

No algorithm is omnipotent. Claiming otherwise makes it untrustworthy – the best way to prevent this is for the algorithm to state its limitations.

Algorithm Social Impact

Algorithms impact almost every area of life including politics, economic and healthcare decisions, marketing, transportation, social media and Internet, and society and culture in general.

Algorithm Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Contrary to popular belief, algorithms aren’t very sustainable. The extraction of materials to make computers that power algorithms is a major polluter.

Future of Algorithms

Algorithms are already advanced, but what does the future hold for this technology? Here are a few potential applications and types of future algorithms:

  • Quantum Algorithms – Quantum algorithms are expected to run on quantum computers to achieve unprecedented speeds and efficiency.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – AI and machine learning algorithms can help a computer develop human-like cognitive qualities via learning from its environment and experiences.
  • Algorithmic Fairness and Ethics – Considering the aforementioned challenges of algorithms, developers are expected to improve the technology. It may become more ethical with fewer privacy violations and accessibility issues.

Smart, Ethical Implementation Is the Difference-Maker

Understanding algorithms is crucial if you want to implement them correctly and ethically. They’re powerful, but can also have unpleasant consequences if you’re not careful during the development stage. Responsible use is paramount because it can improve many areas, including healthcare, economics, social media, and communication.

If you wish to learn more about algorithms, accredited courses might be your best option. AI and machine learning-based modules cover some of the most widely-used algorithms to help expand your knowledge about this topic.

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