9 Different Types of Machine Learning Explained in Plain English with Examples

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9 Different Types of Machine Learning Explained in Plain English with Examples

Machine learning is a key branch of artificial intelligence that creates algorithms and models that let computers learn from their experiences without programming. Machine learning comes in various forms, each with special qualities and uses. It involves creating algorithms that can automatically improve their performance by learning from new data.

Machine learning has numerous uses, such as natural language processing, image recognition, and predictive modeling. This has made it an indispensable instrument for a multitude of industries. A recent analysis by Grand View Research Global estimates that the machine learning market size was $8.43 billion in 2020. They projected it to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.8% from 2021 to 2028.

The growing use of machine learning across various sectors, including banking, healthcare, retail, and transportation, is fueling this rise. Additionally, the market for machine learning is expanding due to the growing demand for predictive analytics and the creation of sophisticated algorithms and models.

So, let’s dive into the different types of machine learning you need to know.

#1: Supervised Learning 

Supervised learning, a subfield of machine learning, involves training algorithms with labeled datasets. In this approach, each input data point corresponds to specific output values. The primary objective of supervised learning is to establish a mapping function that connects input and output variables. This function subsequently predicts outcomes for previously unseen or novel inputs.

Regression and classification are the two primary subtypes of supervised learning. While classification predicts a categorical output variable, a regression can predict a continuous output variable.

Primarily, regression involves training an algorithm to predict a numerical number, like the cost of a house. It uses the attributes of the house’s size, location, and other relevant details to do this. You can train the algorithm with the dataset including house features and the equivalent price. The algorithm will then predict a categorical variable.

Various techniques can be employed to train supervised learning models, including support vector machines, decision trees, random forests, logistic regression, and linear regression. The performance of these algorithms can be evaluated using metrics such as accuracy, precision, recall, and an F1 score.

Many real-world supervised learning applications exist, including fraud detection, speech recognition, image and image-based recognition, and natural language processing. Because labeling data can be time and money-consuming, the availability of labeled data is frequently a constraint in supervised learning. However, supervised learning is one of the most effective and often employed methods in machine learning.

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Supervised learning makes use of provided data sets to train machines



#2: Unsupervised Learning 

Unsupervised learning is among the types of machine learning in which the model picks up on relationships and patterns in data without supervision or labeled training data. In unsupervised learning, the algorithm receives the data and searches it for hidden patterns and relationships.

Unsupervised learning frequently employs the clustering technique. This method assembles comparable data points into clusters. Customer segmentation, picture segmentation, and anomaly detection frequently use clustering. Another method used in unsupervised learning is dimensionality reduction. With this approach, the algorithm minimizes the number of features or variables in the input while keeping the crucial information. This method is useful for data visualization because it allows the representation of high-dimensional data in a lower-dimensional space.

Unsupervised learning presents the challenge of evaluating the model’s performance, as there is no established metric for comparison. Despite this, unsupervised learning can be effectively employed in numerous applications to discover patterns and connections within data sets.

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Unsupervised learning is when the machine picks up on patterns without any help from provided datasets.


#3: Semi-Supervised Learning 

Semi-supervised learning creates models using both labeled and unlabeled data. Since most of the data in this method remains unlabeled, the machine learning system needs explicit instructions for these data points. The main upside of semi-supervised learning is that it is more effective than unsupervised and supervised learning with labeled data.

By using semi-supervised learning, the system can gain knowledge from the labeled data and apply it to the unlabeled data to improve its predictions. This can be especially helpful when categorizing huge datasets. Semi-supervised learning functions in natural language processing as it deals with vast amounts of textual information. The system can effectively learn to classify text input without explicitly labeling each document by utilizing a restricted collection of labeled data, like annotated documents.

Overall, semi-supervised learning is a powerful method that enhances the performance and productivity of machine learning. By merging labeled and unlabeled data, it is possible to construct models capable of learning from vast information while removing the need for explicit labeling.

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Semi-supervised learning involves some training with datasets, using instructions to make sense of unlabeled data.


#4: Reinforcement Learning 

Reinforcement learning instructs an agent to engage with the environment to complete a task using a trial-and-error approach. The agent takes actions within the world and receives feedback through rewards or punishments, which helps it learn the behaviors that yield the desired outcomes.

The main goal of reinforcement learning is to develop a policy that links states to actions and allows an agent to maximize its cumulative reward over time. The agent enters the world without prior information and gradually picks it up through repeated interactions.

The balance between exploration and exploitation is one of the major problems with reinforcement learning. The agent must investigate its surroundings to find new behaviors that might result in greater rewards while using its present knowledge to increase the expected benefit. Achieving the best performance requires striking a balance between these two goals.

Numerous real-world applications of reinforcement learning exist, including gaming, robots, autonomous vehicles, and industrial control. Games like Go, Chess, and Poker, show remarkable effectiveness in achieving superhuman performance. 

Although it has made significant strides, reinforcement learning faces challenges and numerous unresolved issues. Present research topics encompass transfer learning, secure exploration, and sample effectiveness.

types of supervised learning
Reinforcement learning works similarly to how humans learn — using a system of rewards and punishments.

©Siberian Art/Shutterstock.com

#5: Deep Learning 

Deep learning is also popular among types of machine learning as it uses artificial neural networks to model and resolve complicated issues. It is especially helpful in applications with high accuracy, such as picture and speech recognition.

Deep learning algorithms learn to recognize patterns and features in data through numerous layers of interconnected nodes, each extracting increasingly abstract representations of the input data. It enables the modeling of intricate interactions between inputs and outputs. This allows the algorithm to generate accurate predictions or classifications.

Popular deep learning examples include Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) for image and video analysis and Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) for sequential data analysis like speech recognition. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are also widely used to generate new data samples.

Deep learning is extremely effective in various disciplines, including speech recognition, natural language processing, and computer vision. But it might only be appropriate for some applications because it requires a lot of data and computational power. Despite its drawbacks, deep learning has significantly impacted the study of artificial intelligence and is still a hot topic for investigation.

Machine Learning vs Deep Learning
Deep learning is used to emulate outputs requiring a high degree of accuracy, such as speech and picture recognition.


#6: Transfer Learning 

This type of machine learning is a pre-trained model that acts as a starting point for a different task or domain in the machine learning process. Transfer learning uses the information gained from earlier tasks to enhance performance on a new or related task, unlike training a new model from scratch.

Transfer learning can be useful in a variety of ways, including the below methods.


We fine-tune a pre-trained model using a new dataset to update its weights. This is helpful when the new and original datasets used to train the pre-trained model are similar.

Feature Extraction 

This entails passing the output of the pre-trained model to a new classifier or regression model as a fixed feature extractor. It is helpful when the new task differs from the original task, but the features the pre-trained model learned are still applicable.

Many applications, such as computer vision, natural language processing, and speech recognition, use transfer learning. It is a suitable tool for accelerating the creation of new machine-learning systems because of its capacity to use pre-existing knowledge to drastically reduce the quantity of data and computational resources required to train new models.

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Transfer learning is used when a pre-trained model is applied to a larger machine learning process.

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#7: Online Learning 

Online learning includes constantly updating the model with fresh data as it comes in. The technique is especially helpful when real-time data generation makes it hard to save all data in advance for batch processing.

Online learning uses individual data points or tiny batches to train the model, and each iteration updates the model’s weights. This enables the model to pick up on new patterns in the data as they appear and adjust to them.

Compared to batch learning, online learning has many benefits. First, it enables real-time predictions since the model can quickly include fresh data as it comes in. Second, it is computationally efficient because it doesn’t need to process much data simultaneously. 

Online learning is used in several applications, including fraud detection, anomaly detection, recommendation systems, and natural language processing. However, it necessitates close monitoring and validation because errors can propagate rapidly across the model. Mistakes in online learning can have significant consequences, and thus, it requires careful attention.

AI models
Online learning takes new data as it arrives and learns from each update.

©everything possible/Shutterstock.com

#8: Ensemble Learning

Ensemble learning is a popular method among types of machine learning that combines several models to increase the predictive power of each one. You can use this approach in different types of machine learning, such as classification, regression, and clustering.

We can classify ensemble learning into the two broad categories below.


Using this method, you train various models using different subsets of the training data. Every model makes a prediction; the final prediction is made by averaging the various models’ predictions. The bagging methods Random Forest and Bootstrap Aggregation are two examples.


In this method, you train the models consecutively, with each model picking up on the mistakes of the models that came before it. The combined projections of all the models yield the final prediction. AdaBoost, Gradient Boosting, and XGBoost are examples of boosting methods.

The advantages of ensemble learning include better accuracy, more stable results, and less overfitting. It is especially helpful when a single model cannot capture the intricacy of the data or when the data could be more stable and quiet.

However, ensemble learning also has several drawbacks, including greater computational needs and the potential for lowered model interpretability. Ensemble learning is a powerful technique that can boost the effectiveness of machine learning models. It is useful in various applications, including image and speech recognition and recommendation systems.

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Ensemble learning combines several different models to improve accuracy.


#9: Bayesian Learning 

This method is a type of machine learning that uses Bayesian inference to create predictions or judgments. Bayesian inference is a statistical technique that uses probability distributions and previous knowledge to update beliefs or hypotheses about a specific event or phenomenon. In Bayesian learning, starting probabilities or distributions for a model depend on prior knowledge. The Bayes’ rule updates these initial probabilities, which entails adding fresh information and modifying the prior probability as necessary.

Bayesian learning has many benefits compared to other machine learning techniques, including handling tiny datasets, considering prior information, and quantifying prediction uncertainty. To increase the generalization and accuracy of a model, Bayesian learning can also be helpful for model selection and hyperparameter adjustment. 

However, Bayesian learning comes with some drawbacks. They include the need for prior knowledge, which can be hard to specify accurately, and computational complexity, which can be challenging for huge datasets. 

Typically, Bayesian learning is a suitable method for machine learning that enables the incorporation of prior information and the assessment of prediction uncertainty. It is especially helpful when data is scarce or there is access to past information.

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Bayesian learning uses Bayesian inference, a statistical technique that uses previous knowledge and probability distributions.


Wrap Up 

Machine learning is a rapidly expanding field that is impacting many different sectors. Supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning are primary categories of machine learning. In contrast to unsupervised learning, which looks for patterns in unlabeled data, supervised learning involves training a model on labeled data. 

Depending on the type of data and the issue, each type of machine learning has advantages and disadvantages and can solve various problems. Unsupervised learning is suitable for clustering and anomaly detection, while supervised learning is useful in natural language processing and picture identification.

In general, creating efficient machine learning models and resolving complex issues requires understanding the various types of machine learning. We anticipate more cutting-edge machine-learning applications across various industries as the discipline develops.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a field that involves training computers to learn from data without explicitly programming them. It also entails applying algorithms to find links and patterns in the data, then using this knowledge to forecast or make decisions.

What are the applications of machine learning?

Machine learning has multiple applications in various fields, including finance, healthcare, marketing, and more. Some examples of machine learning applications include fraud detection, recommendation systems, speech recognition, and image recognition.

How does traditional learning differ from machine programming?

A human programmer writes code in traditional programming to instruct a computer to perform a specific task. In machine learning, the computer learns from data to perform a task. It means the computer can improve its performance over time as it learns from more data.

What are some challenges in machine learning?

One of the biggest challenges in machine learning is ensuring that the data used to train the model represents the real world. Additionally, machine learning models can favor one side, which can lead to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.

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