How do Traditional ML and Adaptive ML Differ?

Machine Learning, a vibrant branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI), gives computers the remarkable ability to learn and evolve from data and experiences, improving how they function without needing manual updates. At its core, the journey of a machine learning algorithm can be broken down into three key stages. It starts with the algorithm making educated guesses based on a set of predefined data. Next, these guesses are measured against an error function to check how close the predictions are to being right. This cycle of fine-tuning continues relentlessly until the algorithm meets a certain standard of accuracy.

For those involved in eLearning; whether they’re elearning content providers or development companies, machine learning brings a wealth of opportunities. It dramatically enriches the online learning experience, tailoring educational paths to individual needs, offering timely feedback automatically, and adjusting content dynamically to suit different learning styles. This article will take you through both traditional and adaptive machine learning, highlighting how adaptive ML can be a game changer and showcasing its real-world applications across various technologies.

Understanding Traditional Machine Learning

Traditional machine learning refers to the various techniques that have been used before the emergence of neural networks and deep learning. As algorithms parse data, they learn from it and make predictions or decisions accordingly. It is synonymous with making a child familiar with a dog. As the child observes different pictures of the dog, he or she will learn to identify the animal correctly. Now, here are some key characteristics of traditional machine learning systems.

Feature Engineering: In traditional machine learning systems, experts need to manually select, create or transform features from  raw data. This is known as feature engineering. Feature engineering plays a critical role in machine learning as the quality and relevance of the selected patterns and relationships present in the data directly impact the model’s predictive accuracy and generalization ability.

Algorithms: Traditional machine learning has many algorithms that learn from data, based on mathematical optimization and statistical principles. These algorithms include decision trees, logistic regression, support vector machines, k-nearest neighbours, naive Bayes classifiers, and linear regression. 

Supervised and Unsupervised Learning: These are two fundamental types of machine learning paradigms. . While learning from labeled data is referred to as supervised learning, the identification of patterns from unlabeled data refers to unsupervised learning. Both paradigms play essential roles in machine learning and are used in a wide range of applications across various domains.

Interpretability: Algorithms in traditional machine learning offer interpretability. This means that the outputs of the models can be understood with ease to ensure compliance and trust.

Scalability and Efficiency: Numerous algorithms in traditional machine learning are scalable, making them ideal for large data sets. While you may not observe the same level of performance as with deep learning models, traditional methods are preferred when there are less computational resources or they need to prioritize interpretability.

Domain Expertise: To interpret the output of models, and design suitable features, and choose the algorithms, it’s essential to have domain expertise. When the observer has in-depth knowledge of the specific field, he can understand the data distribution and assess  performance in this context.

Performance With Small Datasets: When the model is properly tuned and the features are informative, the algorithms can perform pretty well with small datasets. This makes the machine learning system suitable for applications where it is not viable to gather large labeled datasets.

Now let’s look at the various applications of traditional machine learning.

Detection of email spam: Using the metadata and the features obtained from incoming email content, some algorithms can be used to identify whether the email is spam.

Credit Scoring: Based on the income, credit history, and debt-to-income ratio, machine learning algorithms can be used to determine whether an individual will be able to pay off the loan.

Medical Diagnosis: Supervised learning algorithms can help doctors  diagnose medical conditions. The diagnosis can be  through the symptoms, test results, and medical history.

Predictive Maintenance: Regression algorithms can help predict machinery failures and breakdowns based on the analysis of maintenance records, sensory data, and other related data.

Prediction Of The Stock Price: Through time series forecasting, Ml algorithms can also help predict future stock prices by analyzing market indicators and historical price data. 

Natural Language Processing (Nlp): Some algorithms, like SVMs or Naive Bayes, can help in detecting spam and determine the sentiment in written text. 

Fraudulent Activity Detection: Anomaly detection algorithms can help detect unusual patterns in transactions and enable the identification of fraudulent activity.

Exploring Adaptive Machine Learning

Adaptive machine learning usually refers to the capability of ML algorithms to adjust and improve their behavior in response to changes in data. Unlike traditional ML models that are trained on a fixed dataset, adaptive ML algorithms can adjust and improve their performance based on new data they encounter. Adaptive ML models continuously update themselves with fresh data, fine-tune their internal parameters based on new data points, optimize their learning rate and update their decision-making.. Here’s how  adaptive machine learning used in eLearning technologies has evolved over time. 

Online Learning: As new data becomes available, the parameters of the ML model get updated continuously. This enables the model to adapt to the changes as it learns from the data points in an iterative manner. 

Incremental Learning: This type of learning involves updating the model with new information without training the model once again. To update the model’s parameters, techniques like online gradient descent are used in incremental learning.

Adaptive Algorithms: These algorithms make adjustments to their behaviour depending on the characteristics of the data they come across. For example, you will observe an adjustment in the learning rate based on certain parameters when adaptive learning rate methods like Adams, RMSProp, and AdaGrad are employed. This eventually leads to better performance, even when the data keeps changing continuously.

Reinforcement Learning: In the field of reinforcement learning, the algorithms learn through the feedback they get from a certain environment. It is like learning through trial and error. This enables the algorithms to improve their decision-making abilities. 

In the end, it’s essential to have feedback loops for real-time learning systems to evaluate the model’s performance and adapt accordingly. The adjustments can also be made whenever they’re needed by observing the performance metrics and carrying out A/B testing. Now, let’s check out the significance of adaptability in AI applications. 

Adaptability plays a vital role in modern AI applications due to many reasons.

Dealing with Dynamic Environments: As real-world environments keep changing with time, adaptive AI systems can adjust their capability of making decisions depending on the change. This ensures relevance and effectiveness along with the change. 

Personalization: Adaptive AI systems can tailor their predictions and recommendations based on the individual’s preferences. This not only improves engagement but also leads to better user satisfaction. 

Continual Learning: As and when new data is continuously generated in some domains, continual learning is important in AI systems to stay relevant. Adaptive AI models can keep on learning from new data without forgetting about the acquired knowledge. This helps to adapt to preferences and changing trends as time passes by. 

Resource Efficiency: By dynamically setting the resources based on the current context or task, adaptive AI systems can help in optimizing the utilization of resources. For instance, the models can either scale up or down based on the complexity of the input data. This leads to a significant improvement in efficiency and scalability. 

Eventually, adaptive AI systems can explore new opportunities that can lead to improvements and innovations in different domains. By learning and adapting continuously, the models can discover new solutions that professionals might not have thought of in the past.

Key Differences Between Traditional ML and Adaptive ML


There are many differences between traditional ML and adaptive ML.

Parameter Traditional ML Adaptive ML
Data Handling & Processing Operates on static datasets and carries out processing offline Handles evolving data distributions and carries out processing in real-time
Learning Approach & Model Updates Learns from fixed datasets and the model needs to be retrained for updates Learns continuously by updating the model based on new data
Scalability & Flexibility Can’t be scaled and may lack flexibility Can be scaled effectively and are more flexible
Application Areas Used in email spam detection, medical diagnosis, predictive maintenance, and fraud detection Used for adaptive user interfaces, dynamic pricing in E-Commerce, autonomous vehicles, and financial trading

Benefits of Adaptive Machine Learning Over Traditional Approaches

Among various eLearning technologies, adaptive machine learning has the ability to evolve, and it offers numerous advantages over traditional approaches.

Dynamic Learning: Adaptive algorithms can learn from new data without any human intervention. This helps them adapt to changes in learner behavior and data patterns making them capable of dealing with real-time scenarios.

Improves Accuracy: With  adjustment of parameters based on new data, adaptive models are highly accurate and lead to improved learning outcomes by further refining their predictions. 

Flexibility: Different data types can be accommodated in adaptive algorithms. This  makes them more flexible and they can be applied to a wide range of eLearning platforms.

Faster Adaptation: As adaptive algorithms can update their parameters incrementally based on new data, they can adapt more quickly and respond to the changes in user behavior and learning needs in less time.

Ultimately, adaptive learning approaches can handle “non-stationarity” by updating the models to reflect the latest data. This ensures optimal performance despite the change that occurs over time.

Challenges and Considerations in Implementing Adaptive ML

Course and platform developers encounter many challenges when they are implementing Adaptive Machine Learning in eLearning. However, it’s necessary to address these challenges as adaptive ML offers numerous benefits.  

Model Interpretability: Owing to the complex nature of the Adaptive ML models, it can seem challenging to understand how they make decisions. Developers may also find it tough to find the reasons for recommending certain adaptations. But the emerging field of Explainable AI can enhance model interpretability to help trainers and learners understand the reasoning behind recommendations.  

Adaptation Overfitting: When adaptive ML models try to tailor the learning experience excessively as per the learner’s preferences, the individual is not exposed to diverse content across the eLearning course. To ensure that the learners are educated comprehensively, developers have to diversify and scale the training data set to prevent “overfitting”.  

Catastrophic Forgetting: As an adaptive model learns new information, it can sometimes overwrite or forget previously acquired knowledge.  This is known as “catastrophic forgetting.”. To overcome this challenge, the  solution is to design a balanced model architecture and  algorithms. This solution can help strike a fine balance between the ability to acquire new information and the ability to retain existing information.  

Resource and scalability constraints: When you’re looking to implement adaptive ML, you need considerable computational resources and a scalable infrastructure. You also have to seek assistance from an expert who can train and maintain the adaptive model. Moreover, you need to ensure scalability with resource constraints for adopting the adaptive eLearning solutions.  

Data Quality and Bias: To accurately accommodate  learner preferences, adaptive AI needs on high-quality and representative user data. But, incomplete or biased data can lead to unfair practices. So, it’s important to address issues pertaining to data quality and ensure fair practices. 

Data Protection: While Adaptive ML systems gather user data for analysis, along with behavioral patterns and the learner’s preferences, for adding a personal touch to the learning experience, it’s necessary to ensure data privacy. This is essential to mitigate the likelihood of data breaches or misuse.  

Eventually, the ML systems must maintain a balance between user autonomy and personalization, after taking the learner’s preferences into account. The experts also have to ensure engagement so that the learners feel that they are supported across the learning journey.

Uses of Traditional and Adaptive Machine Learning in eLearning

Adaptive and Traditional Machine Learning have numerous applications in the eLearning domain.

Personalized Learning Paths: When you embrace Adaptive Machine Learning, the algorithms can adapt to the pace and the difficulty levels dynamically, depending on the learner’s knowledge and skills. Imagine a student excelling in math modules; the system will recommend more challenging material. This not only optimizes engagement but also enhances the effectiveness of the eLearning content. 

Predictive Analysis: Traditional Machine Learning algorithms can help predict the student’s performance and the course completion rate, based on certain performance factors and historical data. This enables proactive intervention and offers support to those who might have lost interest in learning ahead.

Dynamic Assessment: Adaptive assessment tools can enable you to adjust the difficulty level and format of the assessment. The application can also give insights into the learner’s proficiency and progress with the eLearning course.

Content Suggestion: By analyzing the learner’s behavior, preferences, and performance, traditional ML algorithms can help give suggestions on what kind of training material the learner should go through. For instance, the system might recommend additional practice exercises for a student struggling with a specific concept.

Enhancing Engagement Through Interactive Content: As AI and ML techniques help towards analyzing the learner’s interaction level with the eLearning content, it can lead the course developer to boost engagement through different elements. 

Assessment and Feedback Automation: With the evaluation and analysis of the learner’s responses to different types of assessments, ML models can automate the assessment process. Learners can also expect instant feedback after completing the assessment. 


Finally, there’s a vast difference between traditional machine learning and adaptive machine learning. While traditional ML models are static and can only adapt to changes through retraining them on the new data, adaptive ML models keep evolving with real-time data processing. So, as the adaptive ML models adjust dynamically, they are usually useful when real-time adaptation is needed. In contrast, traditional ML models are used when the data distribution is stable and interpretability is required. 

 How Can Mitr Media Help?

If you’re looking for an eLearning content development organization that goes beyond simply implementing technology but strives to understand your unique L&D challenges, you can trust MITR Media. Our team specializes in offering digital content development services to K-12 publishers, and EdTech organizations. By focusing on solving problems and embracing eLearning technologies, we meet business needs and never compromise on quality while delivering solutions.

Making the Right Choice

Both off-the-shelf and custom e-learning providers offer unique benefits and have drawbacks. Off the shelf material provides a fast and convenient choice when it comes to implementation but may fail to address an organization’s specific needs.

On the other hand, custom eLearning development entails designing courses that fulfill your requirements thereby creating a personalized learning experience mapped to your business goals. Even though it takes time, this customized approach ensures effectiveness, measurable outcomes and an enriching learning journey for your institution.

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