The process of reminding adult volunteers to renew their online Youth Protection Training (YPT) currently requires continuous and tedious human intervention and vigilance. Reminders are not currently automated. Even though the training itself is provided to adults in an online system that sends an email certificate of completion to them, no email reminder or notification is being sent to trained adults in advance of their expiration date. With different expiration dates spread throughout the year for each parent and adult in a large unit, the unpleasant task of pulling expiration dates manually and then sending “nag mail” reminders to members of the troop, just in order to meet the requirements of chartering, attending summer camp, or doing any scouting activity for that matter, all too often becomes a joyless mundane task that falls on a volunteer adult leader to do. When it is not done consistently, the safety net being provided to our youth is weakened.
This detracts from the adult unit leader experience. Improving this experience for adults, as a way of improving the experience for youth, has been called out as an important goal at the highest levels of leadership in Scouting:
“There is a direct correlation between our support of unit leaders and the impact that support has on the youth of your units.” - National Commissioner’s Minute, Fall 2019 (link)
Scoutbook is uniquely positioned to automate this task and improve the adult scouting experience in this regard.
Automate the process of sending renewal reminders to adults who need to renew.
By respecting adults and their time, giving them a few months of advance notice, they can schedule the hour or so it will take to complete the online youth protection training in a way that is on their time, on their schedule, and that is done in a direct self-serve way. It provides an alternative to “cat herding”, public shaming at committee meetings or emails, labeling people as “compliant” or “non-compliant” and perhaps most importantly, reducing the risk of burnout for volunteers who feel obligated to send nag mail to different adults in the troop month after month, year after year just to keep their program running.
An automated renewal notification feature would promote timely self-serve renewals happening by adult leaders in the unit all throughout the year, and would help free up the key three unit leaders from having to take manual steps to generate the report on my.scouting.org. Online reminders have become commonplace and expected: employers use them to remind people to take annual workplace training, dentists use them to remind people to come in for appointments, libraries use them to remind people to renew library books, etc.
Draft Implementation Proposal
First, add a field to Scoutbook that council can configure to indicate if their council is on a one or two year renewal cycle. This would be inherited by the units in that council. Some councils require once a year renewal (link) while others may snap to the documented national requirement of once every two years (link). This will make it possible for the system to calculate the correct training expiration date for members of that unit based on the corresponding council policy.
Next, create a scheduled task that runs as a background process on Scoutbook servers once a week. This task would be split into two main stages – querying databases, and sending email.
Stage 1 - Querying Databases
- The Scoutbook database already has the BSA ID of every adult associated with the unit who has taken YPT. Very importantly, this also includes parents who have taken the free YPT training and who have been issued a BSA ID for that, but who are not currently on the unit’s charter in a position that required paying a membership fee to register for.
- A weekly scheduled task would run two queries - a first query against the Scoutbook database, and a second query against the Training database.
- The first query would retrieve from Scoutbook every chartered adult member, and parents of a chartered youth, who have a BSA ID associated with their profile.
- The second query would retrieve training expiration dates for just those ID’s from the YPT Training database, factoring in whether the unit is on a one year or two year expiration cycle, and then returning a result set of anyone due to expire in the next 90 days. Other forum posts have indicated that the reliable way to get the official YPT report is via legacy tools available to the unit key three leaders on my.scouting.org. In this case, to replace that manual process, it seems a scheduled task running within in a trusted execution context with the right connection string could access both databases without needing to surface any new UI to users on Scoutbook or involve manual intervention of the key three leaders. To improve performance and reduce load on the system, that second query could be scoped specifically to only return the YPT expiration date records for individuals need to renew in the next 90 days.
- The results of both queries would be joined and the result set would list all individuals in the troop who are up for renewal or whose training has already expired. The fields could be as follows:
- Name (from Scoutbook database)
- Email (from Scoutbook database)
- BSA ID (exists in both Scoutbook database and Training database, used to join the records)
- YPT Expiration Date (from Training database)
Stage 2 - Emailing Reminders
Scoutbook already has the capability of sending email to users, so this would reuse that capability. It would be nice to optimize when the scheduled task runs so that the email would be received at the best possible time for recipients to take action, for example if it was run the first thing in the morning on the first day of the week, when people open their email on the first day of the week they would see this.
The procedures to generate the various email reminders could be as follows:
- Monthly report to key three: On the first week of the month only (checking if the current date falls within the first seven days of the current month), send a summary report to the key three unit leaders listing all individuals in the result set whose training was expired or about to expire in the next three months. If none were about to expire in three months, this report would still be sent, with an acknowledgement that it ran, but that there were none needing renewal. This way the absence of an email would not be misinterpreted as there not being a problem. The absence of that monthly email would be an indicator to the leader that this Scoutbook feature is not working.
- 3 Months Reminder Sends an individual email reminder directly to those individuals whose expiration date is within 83-90 days of the current date. This results in that individual receiving a single reminder at the three month mark, and not receiving another reminder until a month later.
- 2 Month Reminder Sends an individual email reminder directly to those individuals whose expiration date is within 53-60 days of the current date. This results in a single reminder at the two month mark, and not receiving another reminder until a month later.
- Weekly reminders the month of expiration Sends an individual email reminder to everyone in the result set whose expiration date is between 0-30 days from the current date. This results in a reminder being sent each week of the last month that YPT is still valid, until it is complete.
- Weekly alerts for training that has expired For anyone whose YPT expiration date has already expired, send an email to them and include the key three for that unit on the CC line - the same three that are already authorized today to generate and see the official YPT training report. This results in a notice being sent every week to that individual and the unit leaders, until that individual has retaken YPT or is removed from Scoutbook.
I would also suggest that in every reminder email, a time stamp of what day and time the reminder was generated be included, along with a warning of how much of a delay exists between the time training is taken and when it gets reflected in the database. That way if someone takes the training, and then right afterwards happens to get an email saying they are not current, it will be clear from that time stamp and description that the email was created before the training database had a chance to be updated.