flexible online MLS program

The Cleveland State University College of Law online MLS program helps enhance the careers of professionals who work in roles that regularly interact with cybersecurity and require the legal knowledge to comply with data privacy and cybersecurity laws and regulations. This flexible online MLS program prepares professionals with the technical and business dimensions of cybersecurity and privacy.

Brian Ray, Director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection and Professor of Law, spoke with Elia Burgos, one of the first graduates of the MLS program. Elia gave a student’s perspective of the online Master of Legal Studies in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy. Listen to their recent webinar interview discussing Elia’s experience in the program and why she recommends it to anyone interested in these fields.

Julie DiBiasio, Director of Graduate Studies and Professional Development, is the primary contact for students throughout the program. Julie guides prospective students and along with Brian and other faculty, helps each person determine if the program is a good fit. For Elia, Julie helped Elia determine that the MLS degree would both enable her to expand her role as a community outreach coordinator for the Board of Elections and enable her to pursue other opportunities. As Elia explains, “Julie helped me make sense of how versatile the program was to what I was doing right now and what I wanted to do in the future.”


The online MLS is convenient for working professionals with busy schedules that do not allow them to attend traditionally scheduled in-person courses.

The program’s courses are asynchronous with pre-recorded lectures, readings, discussion threads, and written assessments. The asynchronous format enables students to take the classes and listen to the lectures at their own pace. “You can listen to them during your commute to work. I used to listen during my lunch walks. It’s so easy,” said Elia.

Each course is taught by experienced professionals who use real-world, practical materials rather than relying on canned coursebooks. This has the added benefit of minimizing costs. Elia noted, “The professors are giving you the material through the lectures and through the readings.”

The weekly discussions most courses feature give students the opportunity to work directly with each other and the professors to explore the issues each module covers. Elia emphasized that students learn from each other as much as they learn from the professors. The diverse professional backgrounds of the classmates give new perspectives during the discussions.

Elia emphasized that the optional (but highly encouraged live sessions) make this program distinct from other completely asynchronous programs. Students have direct access to their professors and the opportunity to meet each other live, which enriched the discussions throughout the course and makes it much easier to get to know each other. She noted that this face-to-face interaction led to multiple informal get-togethers with other local students throughout the program.


The core courses of the MLS prepare students with no legal background and students with no technical background to move on to the advanced courses. The degree is a 360-degree view of cybersecurity, emphasizing law and policy. The technical courses help the students with little or no technical experience become comfortable with the cybersecurity element reasonably quickly.

Like many students, Elia had no technical background when she started the program but is now more aware of and able to speak confidently about cybersecurity at her job. She attributes this new skill to the program’s professors.

Professor Spence Witten, who teaches Cybersecurity I and II, takes the information students learn in the legal courses and uses it to teach the technical courses. It makes it easier to understand the material when presented from both legal and technical angles.   

Introduction to American Law and Legal Writing, two core courses, are taught with an emphasis on cybersecurity and data privacy. While Cybersecurity I allows students to have hands-on experience with Kali Linux tools. The Cybersecurity II course pulls the legal and technical together by having students build a technical plan for a large entity.


Another benefit of this flexible online MLS program is that students have access to the same professional opportunities and activities as the on-campus students experience. Brian Ray emphasized that the program connects students with the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and relevant professional societies.

Kirk Herath, who teaches Privacy Law and Management, was a part of creating the IAPP and is responsible for the IAPP’s connection with the Cleveland State University College of Law. The IAPP hosts the Westin Scholar Award for students who are considered future leaders in the field of data protection or privacy by their professors. The award grants three free cybersecurity certifications to the winning student, along with $1,000 and national recognition.

Elia stated she was happy with the professional networking aspect of the program. It was not something she expected, but she took full advantage of it by becoming a member of Women in Cybersecurity. Her membership allowed her to attend a conference where she received exposure to many professional opportunities.


Many students experience the benefits of the legal and cybersecurity knowledge that the MLS provides before they complete the program. One student in Elia’s class was able to move into a more advanced role while still taking the courses.

The MLS program is a worthwhile investment that helps professionally and personally. Elia changed how she handles her at-home cybersecurity since taking the Cybersecurity I course. It made her more aware of how to protect her home network. Furthermore, she now helps the IT department with cybersecurity awareness in the Elections Department. She was happy that she could use what she was learning right away. Elia asserts that the marriage of tech and legal is interesting and feeds off each other. “It’s a hands-on experience that you’re going to use immediately at your workplace.”


CSU College of Law’s innovative online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy takes an integrative approach to education, preparing professionals to understand the technical and business dimensions of cybersecurity and privacy as well as current laws and regulations. 

The part-time and fully online program is led by faculty from the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at Cleveland State University College of Law and other leading practitioners in the field, with a focus on relevant, real-world experience. Also, the MLS degree is designed for professionals who need to understand the significant legal and business risks posed by cybersecurity and data privacy. Lastly, the program prepares graduates with the knowledge and necessary skills to enter these fast-growing fields and to advance to senior positions within organizations.