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COMP61011 Foundations of Machine Learning syllabus 2021-2022

COMP61011 materials

COMP61011 Foundations of Machine Learning

Level 6
Credits: 15
Enrolled students: 97

Course leader: David Wong

Additional staff: view all staff

Assessment methods

  • 80% Written exam
  • 20% Coursework
Sem 1 w1-5 Lecture Schuster MOSELEY TH Tue 10:00 - 12:00 -
Sem 1 w1-5 ONLINE LabORATORY Fri 13:00 - 16:00 -
Sem 1 w1-5 ONLINE DROP-IN Wed 14:00 - 15:00 -
Themes to which this unit belongs
  • Learning from Data


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact. Current students should see Blackboard/course unit related emails for any further updates.

Machine learning is concerned with creating mathematical "data structures" that allow a computer to exhibit behaviour that would normally require a human. Typical applications might be spam filtering, speech recognition, medical diagnosis, or weather prediction. The data structures we use (known as "models") come in various forms, e.g. trees, graphs, algebraic equations, probability distributions. The emphasis is on constructing these models automatically from data---for example making a weather predictor from a datafile of historical weather patterns. This course will introduce you to the concepts behind various Machine Learning techniques, including how they work, and use existing software packages to illustrate how they are used on data.  The course has a fairly mathematical content although it is intended to be self-contained.


  • To introduce the main algorithms used in modern machine learning.
  • To introduce the theoretical foundations of machine learning.
  • To provide practical experience of applying machine learning techniques.

If you have sat an undergraduate ML course (particularly my COMP24111) then you may feel you know all this material. In fact we will cover virtually the same topics - however, you almost certainly will not have covered this material in the same depth as we will cover it. We will study why and how these methods work, at a very deep level. This is not a course on how to use ML techniques. It is a course on the foundations, the deeper aspects. If you really think you know it all already, then try sitting the previous exam papers, under exam conditions of course (i.e. no textbooks).


Topics covered:

  • Classifiers and the Nearest Neighbour Rule
  • Linear Models, Support Vector Machines
  • Algorithm assessment - overfitting, generalisation, comparing two algorithms
  • Decision Trees, Feature Selection, Mutual Information
  • Probabilistic Classifiers and Bayes Theorem
  • Combining Models - ensemble methods, mixtures of experts, boosting
  • Feature Selection - basic methods, plus some tasters of research material

Teaching methods


1 day per week (5 weeks)

Feedback methods

  • Formative exam practice questions with answers and discussion
  • Virtual face-to-face feedback on lab work

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam (2 hours)
  • Lectures (10 hours)
  • Practical classes & workshops (20 hours)

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Project management
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

  • Have knowledge and understanding of the principle algorithms used in modern machine learning, as outlined in the syllabus.
  • Have sufficient knowledge of information theory and probability theory to understand some basic theoretical results in machine learning.
  • Be able to apply machine learning algorithm to real datasets, evaluate their performance and appreciate the practical issues involved.
  • Be able to provide a clear and concise description and justification for the employed experimental procedures.

Reading list

No reading list found for COMP61011.

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the Department of Computer Science website for current students.