In reinforcement learning (RL), there are two major settings for interacting with the environment — online and offline. Online methods explore the environment at significant time cost, and offline methods efficiently obtain reward signals by sacrificing exploration capability. We propose semi-offline RL, a novel paradigm that smoothly transits from offline to online settings, balances exploration capability and training cost, and provides a theoretical foundation for comparing different RL settings. Based on the semi-offline formulation, we present the RL setting that is optimal in terms of optimization cost, asymptotic error, and overfitting error bound. Extensive experiments show that our semi-offline approach is efficient and yields comparable or often better performance compared with state-of-the-art methods. Our code is available on GitHub
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