Get Started With Moodle’s Machine Learning
Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) has a built-in prediction engine gives Moodlers a taste of machine learning functionality and it takes advantage of the Analytics API, the result of the formerly known ‘Project Inspire‘.
Currently, the visual interface offers one prediction, namely the ‘risk‘ or likelihood that a given student drops out before the course ends. A more comprehensive visual User Interface was released earlier this year, the development is still ongoing and focused on back-end issues, among them the improvement of ‘analytics model display and administration‘.
But while the work on the interface moves forward, the Moodle core already offers a robust machine learning engine, known as ‘Machine Learning Backends‘. The machine learning engine currently offers support for a native PHP engine and a Python-based engine.
Plans for more compatibility with backends in more languages and services are underway. They provide the standard functions and elements expected in a machine learning library: classifiers, regressors, and evaluation tools, and all can be applied easily to the data and classes the Analytics API makes available.
The Python engine due to its speed, accuracy, and visual reporting features. The Learning Analytics community page lists some case scenarios for developers are welcome to use the Machine-Learning backends: teacher behavior and ‘course power,’ role of parental engagement, optimizing notifications, student deciles and distribution, and the effectiveness of prerequisites.
Some advice for developers interested in taking advantage of mlbackend for problems involving ‘supervised‘ (desired outcome-known) machine learning in the creation of their own models. In short:
- The mlbackend library, available on GitHub, offers a few examples (examples were found for the PHP engine only).
- To use the engines in your plugin or for custom development, just extend the mlbackend processor class. In Python, install the moodlemlbackend plugin (this is not a Moodle plugin).
- To create graphics based on results, use the Python engine and a visualization tool since the Python engine is based on Tensorflow, the easiest one to integrate with is TensorBoard.
- The engines are not built to support unsupervised machine learning so if you proceed this route, you are on your own.
- Developers can access the latest version of Moodle mlbackend for Python at GitHub.
But before heading straight into the programming, some initial requirements are recommended: mainly Python (with NumPy) and TensorFlow. The latter has some previous concepts of its own, from machine learning basics, math (trigonometry, calculus, and algebra) and statistics (central tendency measures, histograms, regressions).
All currently provided models (PHP and Python) are able to use either backend, because the models currently generate binary predictions, and these can be calculated using logistic regression (in PHP) or feed-forward neural networks (in Python).
The intention is to implement support for more algorithms in both backends (ex. linear regression, etc.) and we also encourage interested developers to implement the API for other backends if they are interested. These extensions will allow the creation of models supporting different types of predictions, such as non-binary classification or probability.
the backends are planned to offer compatibility with multiple services other than the built-in PHP and the Python engines.
Let us know what you think.