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Online Continual Adaptation with Active Self-Training

Shiji Zhou · Han Zhao · Shanghang Zhang · Lianzhe Wang · Heng Chang · Zhi Wang · Wenwu Zhu

Abstract: Models trained with offline data often suffer from continual distribution shifts and expensive labeling in changing environments. This calls for a new online learning paradigm where the learner can continually adapt to changing environments with limited labels. In this paper, we propose a new online setting -- Online Active Continual Adaptation, where the learner aims to continually adapt to changing distributions using both unlabeled samples and active queries of limited labels. To this end, we propose Online Self-Adaptive Mirror Descent (OSAMD), which adopts an online teacher-student structure to enable online self-training from unlabeled data, and a margin-based criterion that decides whether to query the labels to track changing distributions. Theoretically, we show that, in the separable case, OSAMD has an $O({T}^{2/3})$ dynamic regret bound under mild assumptions, which is aligned with the $\Omega(T^{2/3})$ lower bound of online learning algorithms with full labels. In the general case, we show a regret bound of $O({T}^{2/3} + \alpha^* T)$, where $\alpha^*$ denotes the separability of domains and is usually small. Our theoretical results show that OSAMD can fast adapt to changing environments with active queries. Empirically, we demonstrate that OSAMD achieves favorable regrets under changing environments with limited labels on both simulated and real-world data, which corroborates our theoretical findings.

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