Prediction and Control with Function Approximation

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  • Welcome to the Course!
    • Welcome to the third course in the Reinforcement Learning Specialization: Prediction and Control with Function Approximation, brought to you by the University of Alberta, Onlea, and Coursera. In this pre-course module, you'll be introduced to your instructors, and get a flavour of what the course has in store for you. Make sure to introduce yourself to your classmates in the "Meet and Greet" section!
  • On-policy Prediction with Approximation
    • This week you will learn how to estimate a value function for a given policy, when the number of states is much larger than the memory available to the agent. You will learn how to specify a parametric form of the value function, how to specify an objective function, and how estimating gradient descent can be used to estimate values from interaction with the world.
  • Constructing Features for Prediction
    • The features used to construct the agent’s value estimates are perhaps the most crucial part of a successful learning system. In this module we discuss two basic strategies for constructing features: (1) fixed basis that form an exhaustive partition of the input, and (2) adapting the features while the agent interacts with the world via Neural Networks and Backpropagation. In this week’s graded assessment you will solve a simple but infinite state prediction task with a Neural Network and TD learning.
  • Control with Approximation
    • This week, you will see that the concepts and tools introduced in modules two and three allow straightforward extension of classic TD control methods to the function approximation setting. In particular, you will learn how to find the optimal policy in infinite-state MDPs by simply combining semi-gradient TD methods with generalized policy iteration, yielding classic control methods like Q-learning, and Sarsa. We conclude with a discussion of a new problem formulation for RL---average reward---which will undoubtedly be used in many applications of RL in the future.
  • Policy Gradient
    • Every algorithm you have learned about so far estimates a value function as an intermediate step towards the goal of finding an optimal policy. An alternative strategy is to directly learn the parameters of the policy. This week you will learn about these policy gradient methods, and their advantages over value-function based methods. You will also learn how policy gradient methods can be used to find the optimal policy in tasks with both continuous state and action spaces.