I agree with the arguments that this can largely be addressed by changes to actions by individuals at the unit level. However, this ties back to an issue that I have raised many times in the past, which is partially about nomenclature and partially about functionality.
From a nomenclature perspective, the word “Complete” means something very different from “Ready for Review/Testing”. While I understand the verbal communication via SUAC from BSA-IT of the “intent” being “Ready for Review/Testing”, that’s ret-conning a meaning onto something that is a leftover feature from a Cub Scouting model of advancement (i.e. parent as Akela) which propagated when Scoutbook was expanded to serve troops, long before the BSA purchased it. I don’t say this as a slam on original development decisions. It does, however, appear to more clearly state a software development pathway that is consistent the behavior presently observed. Respectfully, continuing to call a duck a dog does not make it a dog, and is not a solution.
As Scoutbook is structured now, marking something Complete:
- Can be done by a parent or a scout who is connected to their account.
- Causes it to show up in the Needs Approval report.
- Causes the badge, award, rank, etc to appear on the scout’s dashboard as though it has already been earned.
Each of these has the potential to generate issues at anything other than the Cub Scouting level. The first can be okay, and is the correct behavior for Cub Scout advancement (assuming a parent not a scout marks it), since it is consistent with the advancement methods defined by the BSA for Cub Scouting. The parent or registered adult leader indicates that the cub scout has completed the requirement/rank/award by satisfying the standard of “Do Your Best” and marks the work Complete. This is entirely congruent with the parent signing-off the requirement/rank/award in the cub scout’s handbook. At that time, the rank badge or award appears on the scout’s profile. This is proper because the standard for earning the award has been satisfied (parent or adult leader certification that the scout has done his or her best to complete the requirements). Appearance in the Needs Approval report is also proper (although the nomenclature is still problematic), because this informs the leader that the requirement/rank/award needs further action. The Leader Approval step actuates the digital equivalent of notifying the advancement chair so that the badge/award can be purchased or issued from unit stock. Again, problematic nomenclature but consistent with the actual workflow if this were a non-digital process, so lower impact. The Awarded step indicates that the need to disburse the badge/award has been satisfied. In this context, the latter two steps are actually related only to the “logistics” of disbursing the badge/award. They are not integral to the approval of the actual work itself. Thus, each of the three events noted in the list above are “proper” in the pack context. Things at the Webelos level are a bit fuzzier, but I’m going to gloss over that for the moment because the larger issue occurs in the Scouts BSA and Sea SCouting programs (and potentially in the Venturing program since it now has ranks, if I understood what I have read elsewhere correctly). I’m going to talk about the Scouts BSA program process, since I am less familiar with the mechanics of the others.
At the Scouts BSA program level, however, the parent is no longer serving as the review authority with respect to advancement. Therefore, neither the parent nor the scout should be marking advancement “Completed”. Advancement is complete when actually reviewed and approved by the unit leader or their designee in accordance with the requirements set forth in the handbook/requirements “book” and the Guide to Advancement. Thus, the nomenclature is inherently problematic.
Having the requirement/badge/rank/award marked Completed appear on the Needs Approval report is only problematic in terms of how many units are using the report. The Needs Approval report is largely being treated at the troop level in the same manner it was at the pack level: as a necessary logistical step for notifying the advancement chair that merit badges/rank badges/awards need to be sourced and/or disbursed. However, the intended behavior described by BSA-IT is that this is simply notification that the scout is ready for the unit leader or their designee to review and approve work already done. This assertion is not consistent with the text of many requirements, which by definition are not “already done” until (for example) demonstrated and/or discussed. It becomes even more remote with respect to merit badges. There are additional logistical hurdles that exist with merit badges (e.g. counselors and/or programs like summer camps who don’t use Scoutbook), so having them behave in the same manner as ranks and awards is likely the lesser of two evils. This issue can largely be remedied through policy implementation at the unit level.
The behavior of the Scoutbook GUI (Item 3) does not change at the troop level: marking a rank or award Complete causes it to appear in the scout’s dashboard as though approved. This behavior is not consistent with the asserted position that Completed means it is ready for testing, review and approval. It displays as though the rank/badge/award has already been approved by the relevant authority
My suggested remedy for this issue is as follows:
At the Scouts BSA level, change the following properties:
- Change the name of the checkbox from “Completed” to “Ready for Review”. This adds 7 characters, and is only slightly longer than “Leader Approved”, so should not cause substantial issues with handling of the string.
- Change the logic for displaying the rank badge/award on the scout’s dashboard from being marked Completed to being marked Leader Approved.
(ALTERNATE: Change the logic to only display on the dashboard once “Leader Approved”.)
I recognize that neither of these is on the BSA’s critical path, but I hope that the developers are taking seriously the impact that this seemingly minor issue generates within units. In particular, I hope that the development work being put into whatever future version of Scoutbook is being developed is already conceived so as to resolve this issue.
It seems like the first proposed change is more than just “Dilbert easy”, since we already have Troop Roster, Troop Forum, Troop Reports, etc as opposed to Pack(i.e. the menu labels are already context sensitive). It seems like changing the name of the tickbox from “Completed” to something else should be strictly superficial and not impact underlying programming logic. There would be no need to change the underlying name of the tickbox state variable from (presumably) completed, or something similar.
I acknowledge that the second proposed change is more involved, since it requires different behavior of the GUI based on the program the scout is involved with. At the pack level, marking the “first tickbox” (aka Completed) would mean that the work is actually completed, and displaying the results is reasonable. At the troop/ship/crew level, the rank/badge/award would not appear until marked Leader Approved. The alternate proposal seems like an easier programming fix, since the developers would be changing the GUI behavior at all program levels, rather than having to make it context sensitive.
I know it seems like a little thing, but we continue to get the same concerns raised by multiple units, and it doesn’t necessarily go away for units who aren’t still complaining about it simply because they created policy about how it’s “supposed” to be used. I still regularly get scouts who ask me why they haven’t received something that is marked Completed and appears on their Scoutbook profile. We frequently have adults who Leader Approve things that have not actually been reviewed yet, thinking that another adult has actually done the review prior to the scout/parent marking something Completed.