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Unable to view Scout's merit badge after inviting MBC to connect with the Scout

Hello. Our troop is for the first time using Scoutbook to record advancements and merit badges earned at summer camp. As the troop’s advancement chair and Scoutbook admin, I’ve been asked to set this up.

First attempt went like this: Scout earned two merit badges at camp. I pulled up his advancement page, scrolled to Merit Badges, and clicked on “Start Another Merit Badge.” This brought up a screen with instructions, and after reading these I clicked “Start a Merit Badge.” I selected “Nature” and continued. The top of the next page is the part where you invite a merit badge counselor. I found the counselor, who was a staff member at summer camp when this was earned, and sent him an invitation to connect with the Scout. I checked the box for Merit Badge Counselor and set his permissions to View Profile, View Advancement and Edit Advancement, and to Approve the Nature merit badge. I customized the greeting for the MBC to announce myself, the Scout and what we need him to approve. The connection was added. However, I see that I am not able to view the requirements for this merit badge as I am for his other completed merit badges, which were recorded the old-fashioned way through Council. (Our Council is no longer accepting blue cards, saying that all advancement must now be done at the unit level via Scoutbook.)

When I attempt to view the Scout’s Nature merit badge page, I see this error message:

“Whoops! We encountered an error trying to process your request. Our webmaster has been notified and will fix it ASAP!”

I suspect that the merit badge counselor will not be able to see this page, either, if he accepts the invitation to connect with our Scout.

FYI: The blue card does not have the MBC’s signature. Rather, it has his name and the date stamped on the card via an ink stamp. A staff member at our Council confirmed to me that the MBC’s signature is required and that a stamp is not the same as a signature.

Has anyone experienced this, and have you any tips on what to do to get past this problem?

Thank you for your time.

Jim

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First I would change the Merit Badge Counselor’s connection/permissions to the Scout to:

  • Merit Badge Counselor
  • View Profile
  • Approve Nature merit badge

The MBC should not need more than this for this particular merit badge.

Next, I would check the Scout’s Membership page in Scoutbook and make sure that he only has a Current Membership with your troop and that the membership is approved (green shield with checkmark).

Thanks for responding, Jennifer. I have edited the MBC’s connections/permissions as you suggested. This Scout has multiple past memberships but only one current membership. (The older ones are his original Cub Pack membership and one from his former patrol; all of our Scouts were re-assigned into new patrols back in July.)

There is no change in my experience. The same error is delivered under the same circumstances.

Hi, @JamesWechsler,

In addition to @JenniferOlinger’s comments for potentially resolving the error, I would suggest downloading and installing the Feature Assistant Extension for Chrome and Firefox, which has a number of tools for simplifying advancement data entry. Among these is bulk-starting merit badges, which is accessible — after you install the extension and re-enter Scoutbook — by going to My Units -> Quick Entry, and scrolling to the bottom of the list of quick-entry options to Start Merit Badges. You can also assign a MBC in this step.


Assuming that all of the scouts completed the same requirements for each of the various badges (e.g. everyone who took Nature finished the same requirements, or can be broken into two or three groups of scouts based on which requirements were completed), you can bulk-enter the requirements so you’re not going into each scout’s record to start the badge, add each requirement, invite the merit badge counselor…

Short of having a directly-importable file, this is the fastest way I’ve found to get summer camp advancement entered. You can similarly use Quick Entry for rank advancement that may have been completed as part of a Trail to First Class program at camp.

@JamesWechsler, I have a couple of questions, and based on the answers suggestions.

  1. Are you planning to completely leave your current unit management software (Troopmaster, Troop WebHost, etc.), or are you just entering the Merit Badge, Rank, & Awards completions in Scoutbook and plan to continue using your current software for some time.
  • If you are planning to continue using your current software, then I recommend entering the completions from Summer Camp, etc. into Internet Advancement, not Scoutbook. With Internet Advancement you can either enter the completions 1 Scout at a time, or record many Scouts for the same award at a time. IA is simpler than SB for only recording completions.

  • If you are planning to switch to Scoutbook for everything, then keep plugging away from here.

  1. If the Merit Badge is already completed, and you received the information from the Camp to use as verification, then why are you attempting to connect this Scout to the MBC?
  • My suggestion would be to skip the process of inviting the MBC in this case. Especially if since some of the camp Counselors may not be in Scoutbook as an MBC. Either a) install the Chrome / Firefox Scoutbook Features Extension and use the Quick Entry Feature, or b) simple mark the Merit Badge as Complete, then Approve right after the step where you opened the MB (see here).

image

When you click on the Percent Complete box, the following box will appear where you can enter the Competition Date and check the Leader Approval box.
image

Thank you for all you do to keep your Scouts marching along the Scouting Trail.

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@CharleyHamilton

Thanks. I use MS Edge, but if the quick entry option is available in Chrome it may be worth changing browsers for that functionality.
I will look into it.

Historically, there have been compatibility issues with Edge and Scoutbook. Not sure if those have been fully resolved.

Quick Entry should be available as part of native Scoutbook – for Scouts in your own unit. You can use Quick Entry for completed merit badges or for merit badge requirements. For completed merit badges, I would just use Quick Entry -> Merit Badges and mark them as completed overall.

@JenniferOlinger, is the Start Merit Badge (for partials) also part of the basic Scoutbook? I thought that was necessary any time you weren’t marking an entire badge complete.

Hi @CharleyHamilton,

Start Merit Badge is part of the Feature Assistant for Scoutbook. It is mainly used when a Scout is starting a merit badge, but has not completed any requirements yet – especially if you have multiple Scouts starting the same merit badge.

@KenTodd

  1. Our troop has been using Scoutbook since Jan. 1, 2019. We have not previously used any other troop management software, and we adopted Scoutbook because BSA has adopted it nationally and our local Council stopped accepting blue cards effective July 1, 2019. From now on, advancement tracking is a unit-level function in our Council. (I thought this was the case nationally, too. No?)

  2. I was trying to connect the MBC so he could approve the merit badge requirements that have been completed. Even with quick entry, I only have the authority to mark the requirements as completed. The counselor still would have to approve them.

Some of the other adult leaders in our troop told me that it’s OK for me (as advancement chair) to approve the merit badge since it was completed at summer camp and we have blue card with the counselor’s approval (via rubber-stamped – not handwritten – signature), but:

  1. Per the Guide to Advancement, approval is reserved for the merit badge counselor who counseled the Scout on that badge. (2019 GTA, p. 48, Step 8).

and

  1. Section 7.0.0.2 of the GTA, which details the purpose and use of blue cards, includes the following statement (on p.43):

“Though it may not have been clearly stated in the past, units, districts, and local councils do not have the authority to implement a different system for merit badge approval and documentation.”

That the GTA makes a point of saying the BSA added this language to clarify earlier editions suggests that the BSA recognized a need to be unambiguous. I’m just trying to follow the rules here.

Given all of that, my understanding is that the MBC must connect with the Scout and approve the merit badge by checking the “Leader Approved” checkbox or, in the case of partials, by approving the individual requirements that were completed.

I guess this begs the larger question of whether or when BSA summer camps will start adopting Scoutbook and making the MBCs on staff use it instead of rubber stamping the blue cards.

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Thanks @CharleyHamilton, @JenniferOlinger and @KenTodd for your quick and thoughtful feedback.

I will use quick entry from now on to avoid peppering MBCs with lots of invitations.

The larger question, I guess, is whether or not it is really OK for a unit-level leader to approve merit badge requirements and completions. GTA seems pretty clear that this is not OK and that it’s not OK to deviate from that procedure, although Scoutbook itself seems to make it possible to do so.

@JamesWechsler it is no different from internet advancement or the old advancement report - it is the unit leaders filling that out or entering the completion not the MBC

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Hi, @DonovanMcNeil,

Thanks. I’m a new advancement chair, and I’m not familiar with those other mechanisms.

So what you’re saying is that all of BSA’s systems for reporting merit badge completions contradict the GTA.

Quite the conundrum.

Reporting a completion and COMPLETING a merit badge are 2 very different things.

The Unit Reports - The MBC COMPLETES

See the important difference

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I’m pretty sure it’s the Scout who completes the requirements. :wink:

But I take your meaning. You’re saying that Scoutbook, IA and so forth are just reporting tools and are not meant to actually be part of the advancement workflow. Have I understood your perspective correctly?

The thing is, if it is not the BSA’s intention to have MBCs approve merit badge requirements in Scoutbook, why would it bother incorporating MBCs into Scoutbook at all? That functionality was not part of the program when BSA purchased the platform. So BSA apparently sees the need to put this in place, which makes sense per GTA. And if it’s going to add functionality, one would have to assume that it would do so in a way that adheres to and supports BSA policies.

The procedure for approving merit badges should be the same whether it is done via a web portal or the traditional pen-and-paper method. If our Council were still accepting blue cards, I’d just avoid the whole mess and take them to the registrar there, but that’s not an option anymore. The fact that it’s not an option seems to be another pretty clear sign that Scoutbook is now part of the workflow – is, in fact, the new workflow.

Although, since I am getting the error message in Google Chrome, too, it does seem like they have a few bugs to work out.

Hi, @JamesWechsler,

One thing that occurs to me is that IA2, which is a different interface to the same advancement database as Scoutbook, has no mechanism for the MBCs to connect to AFAIK.

I tend to agree that, in an ideal world, every MBC would have access to the hardware/software/'net needed to mark merit badges complete in the online system. That said, I’m startled that your council has eliminated blue cards altogether. How is a MBC who doesn’t have ready ‘net access (e.g. no service at the location where the counseling occurs or no online presence of his or her own to which to connect) supposed to mark the scouts’ work reviewed and approved? I know that I have pretty poor reception in the areas where I typically meet counselees, and I live in a reasonably large suburb. Where is the scout’s record that the MBC has reviewed the work if the MBC fails to log it in the online system? This feels like a step backward rather than forward: taking ability to/responsibility for tracking their advancement out of the hands of the scouts. Maybe I’m just feeling glass half empty today… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

This is the first time I have ever heard any indication of a Blue Card being turned into a registrar. In my Council, which provides Blue Cards to units at no charge, the Blue Card is required by MBCs but is not submitted to the council. When the MB is completed, the MBC keeps one piece. The Scout takes the remaining pieces to the Scoutmaster who signs and returns one piece to the Scout. The 3rd piece goes to the Unit Advancement Chair who records the MB, processes the advancement report and purchases the MB. The unit retains the 3rd piece of the Blue Card for its records.

Hi, @CharleyHamilton,

To clarify, our Council hasn’t done away with blue cards; it has just shifted responsibility for processing them to the unit level. Our Scouts still get blue cards from the SM and give them to the MBCs, and after they are signed by the MBCs, the Scouts give them to me. (I’m advancement chair.) The Counselor keeps his/her third of the card; the troop keeps the application; and we return the Applicant’s Record portion to the Scout when we award the merit badge.

We’re doing this now out of necessity, but I expect this to be a temporary measure until the kinks are worked out of Scoutbook and until our summer camp starts using Scoutbook to record approvals. When you think about it, SB’s quick entry feature will make it even easier for camp-based MBCs to approve a large amount of badges, quickly and easily. It is faster even than using rubber stamp signatures and dates.

For now, our Scouts have their third of the blue card as their record. And as a paper person, I like having that physical record in the troop’s archive, too. I don’t know that I would ever support completely eliminating blue cards.

But as far as Scouts engaging with their own advancement – isn’t that what Scoutbook is designed to amplify? I don’t see SB as taking away anything from the Scouts. They still have to initiate the invitation to the MBC to work with them on the badge, and they still can (and should) mark off their own requirements as completed as they finish them. I’m distinguishing between Completing a requirement and Approving one. The Scout can do the former but not the latter.

Ahhh…that makes more sense. Thanks, @JamesWechsler.