Coursera Learner working on a presentation with Coursera logo and
Coursera Learner working on a presentation with Coursera logo and

Backpropagation is a necessary tool or algorithm to make improvements when you experience bad results from machine learning and data mining. When you provide a lot of data to the system and the correct solutions by a model such as artificial neural networks, the system will generalize the data and start finding the data. For instance, in imaging, you make a machine that learns from its mistakes and improves functionality after failure to perform functions. The system will work out the solution and, upon failure, guess another solution to the problem on its own.

However, training such systems takes a lot of time as backpropagation keeps on making its output of the network on a transverse tree and structures the data. Backpropagation’s most common use is in machine learning to train artificial neural networks. This algorithm uses gradient descent for the learning process by changing the weight of each error. Below, you will learn how each component helps the backpropagation algorithm work properly:

Artificial Neural Networks     

As the Backpropagation algorithm came about while keeping in mind the human brain’s functionality, the artificial neural networks resemble the brain’s neural system. That makes the learning process fast and efficient. A single artificial neuron receives a signal and then transfers it to the other hidden neurons after processing and training. There are various weights at the connection of one neuron to another. The connections are also known as edges. The increase and decrease of the weight manage the change in the strength of the signals. The signal then transmits to the output neurons. These artificial neurons are also known as feedforward networks.

Backpropagation Algorithm

Backpropagation helps in training artificial neural networks. When artificial neural networks form, the values of the weights undergo random assignment. The user sets random weights because they are not aware of the correct values. When the value is different from the expected feedforward network, consider it as an error. The algorithm is set so that the model changes the parameters each time the output is not the expected. The error has a relationship with artificial neural networks. So when the parameter changes, the error also changes until the neural network finds the desired output by computing the gradient descent.

Gradient Descent

When the algorithm is learning from the error, it starts finding the local minimum. It finds a local minimum by stepping negatively from the current point of the gradient. For instance, if you are stuck on a mountain surrounded by fog blocking your visibility, you will need a way to get down. However, when you cannot see the path, you can locate the minimum local information that you can have. That means you will estimate the path by gradient descent method. By this method, you will guess the steepness by looking at the mountain’s current position where you are standing. Then you will move down the mountain by proceeding in the downward direction. Let suppose you use a measuring tool to measure the steepness. You will require less time to reach the end of the mountain.

In this example:

  • You are the Backpropagation algorithm,
  • The path that you will use to travel down is the artificial neural networks,
  • The steepness is the guess that the algorithm will make,
  • The measuring tool is the calculation that the algorithm will use to calculate the steepness.
  • Your direction will be the gradient
  • The time you require to reach down the mountain is the learning rate of the backpropagation algorithm.*mi-10dMgdMLQbIHkrG6-jQ.png

Benefits of Backpropagation

There are numerous benefits of backpropagation. However, below you will find the most common and prominent benefits of using a Backpropagation algorithm to learn from the errors with the artificial neural networks:

1. User-Friendly and Fast

Backpropagation is a simple and user-friendly method. Once you understand the concept, you can run the program easily. Furthermore, this algorithm’s learning process is fast and automatically tries to find the error solution. Here are the steps explained easily to understand the method:

  • Build artificial neural networks
  • Adjust the bias and weight randomly
  • Solve the input and output
  • Set the input
  • Calculate the difference between the gradient and errors
  • Adjust the weight and the bias as per the result

2. Flexible

The Backpropagation algorithm is flexible as there is no requirement for complex knowledge about programming the network. If you have little knowledge of machine learning, you will not find it intimidating.

3. No Parameters for Tuning

You do not have to add any parameters to turn the output. However, you only have to set the input. Once the input is set, the algorithm will run through the networks and compute the weight by applying gradient descent.

4. Works Mostly

Backpropagation is a standard method that mostly works according to the standard method. You do not have to construct complex methods. You simply have to construct the artificial neural networks and set the input.

5. No Need to Learn Extra Features

You do not have to learn the extra features for the functionality of the backpropagation. Your knowledge about machine learning will help you a lot in setting up the program.


Backpropagation helps simplify the structure of the artificial network, with the weight having minimal effect on the network. To create the relationship between hidden neurons and the input, you only need to learn the activation value. You can use backpropagation for the projects with deep networks and have more chances of error, such as speech recognition and image screening.


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