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Best practices for virtual merit badge counseling/classes

I am getting ready to prepare to teach a new merit badge class virtually (since our area is back mostly locked down). For scouters who have taught virtual MB classes (or scouts who have taken them), what were things the counselors did that made the class go particularly well or be particularly good? On the other hand, were there things that made particular classes tough to get through or seen not successful for the scouts? Since my scout had some mixed experiences with virtual sessions earlier in the pandemic, I’m hoping to learn from others‘ about things that worked or didn’t work so mine is “one of the good ones.” Thanks for any advice.

I did Citizenship In The Nation over the Summer. It took some time but I made a power point using Google Slides. I put a lit of visuals in there with animation to make it as interesting as possible. I had a key rule that attendance does not equate credit. I required participation. There were elements that required homework for future meetings. It took about 3-4 meetings to finish this one.

You might be able to get more specific recommendations for ideas/approaches from folks who have counseled the same MB over video. Which badges are you going to be teaching?Some general thoughts:

  1. Limit the number of scouts in the course to the number you think can actually interact effectively in the time you have, and will fit on your computer screen at once. I would recommend no more than five, based on personal experience, but it likely depends on how much interaction you will have.
  2. Interaction, interaction, interaction. I’ve been in (and occasionally given) some really lecture-format MB classes. The scouts need to have plenty of chances to participate, not just so that they demonstrate that they are doing the work, but also just to keep them engaged. This isn’t a big secret, but it is often missing.
  3. Block out a chunk of time specifically for going through things with the scouts, and consider the possibility of using a breakout room with you, a scout, and their parent for actually reviewing the work done to ensure that each scout is doing their own work and not simply parroting something another scouts said. This method requires “extra” adult leaders to manage the main room where you are “storing” the scouts during the individual sessions. Another option might be to schedule appointments for each of the counselees after the “class” during which you actually do sign-offs.
  4. Make sure it’s clear what you’re covering and what you’re not in advance. I’ve gotten complaints from folks that they already had certain requirements completed and signed-off that were covered in the class, and that the class didn’t cover things they still needed to do. There’s only so much time, and some MBs are pretty information dense.

I was the lead for our councils virtual merit badge program.

Three big items

  1. The first question you should ask is “did your SM sign off on your blue card” either virtually via Scoutbook or paper. If the answer is no, ask them to leave.

  2. Youth Protection up to and including two-deep-leadership is still in effect. Just because it is Zoom does not mean you can be “alone” with a scout. Review what is needed for two-deep leadership.

  3. Read the Guide to Advancement and Group Instruction

There must be attention to each individual’s projects and fulfillment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must do that. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.

Thanks, good idea. I’m going to be developing a class for Sustainability… so it isn’t one where everything is done in class.

My suggestion is to aim to get the scouts to talk. Avoid the one way class thing like the plague.

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