When Yaser S. Abu-Mostafa, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the California Institute of Technology, began promoting his online course on machine learning, one person he turned to was Caltech’s dean of admissions, The New York Times reports. Dr. Abu-Mostafa believed that prospective Caltech students would benefit from learning what it actually takes to be an engineer — something that high schools, on the whole, fail to teach adequately. National Science Foundation statistics lend credence to his worries: while one in 10 students in the United States enter college with the intention of majoring in engineering, nearly half of those students fail to complete their degree requirements. Caltech admissions officials agreed wholeheartedly, and promptly sent out an e-mail blast to applicants suggesting Dr. Abu-Mostafa’s course, Learning From Data, on iTunes U.
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