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Scouting Forums

Virtual Merit Badges

  1. How are Scoutmasters approving virtual merit badges scouts are working on?
  2. How are troops verifying that merit badges online are being run by counselor registered for the badges? And have YPT?
  3. How do units handle virtual merit badges the scout doesn’t get approval to work on from the appropriate leader in their troop? (Such.as no blue card signed by scoutmaster or email received or conversation between scout and Scoutmaster.)
  4. How are troops making decisions about content that can’t be accomplished due to stay at home orders? When is making adjustments OK and when is it not?
  5. How are units handling scouts going online to do badges versus working with Merit Badge counselors in their troop or council? As many leaders may not be working and could be happy to work with youth locally?
  6. Are units using “Invite Counselor” feature in Scoutbooks to have merit badge work updated?

YiS, Kathy P.

Hi, Kathleen,

There are a lot of COVID-related advancement discussions going on in parallel. If you don’t get a lot of feedback, you might try searching around the discussion groups.

  1. Our unit is using Scoutbook to track merit badge work electronically. The counselors can, at least in many cases, be invited to connect to the scout in Scoutbook.
  2. If the MBC is listed in Scoutbook, at least in our council, they were uploaded by council. In councils where they don’t upload the MBC list to Scoutbook, it requires the same legwork that would otherwise be needed to verify an MBC.
  3. We haven’t had that issue yet. I’d have to ask our SM.
  4. There is guidance from BSA regarding allowances based on the COVID-19 situation here: https://www.scouting.org/coronavirus/covid-19-faq/ You have to scroll down a fair piece to find the rank advancement information.
  5. Generally, our scouts have been working with “local” MBCs, just online or over the phone/email.
  6. We are using it, yes.

ETA: Apparently, I trail off in the middle of sentences, even when typing. That’s rather disappointing. I’ve finished my thoughts above.

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I add the Merit Badge to the Scout’s profile in Scoutbook then mark the Initial Unit Leader Signature.

I use the MB Counselor Search on the Troop page to verify the MBC is registered. An MBC will not appear on the list if YPT is expired.

A Scout may begin work on any Merit Badge without leader approval. They are supposed to get the leader’s signature on the Blue Card before meeting with a Merit Badge Counselor. All of my Scouts know this and I have never had an issue with one going to an MBC before discussing it with me.

See the BSA’s COVID-19 FAQ for a list of rank requirements that the BSA has modified so they can be done during the stay at home orders. This file also addresses Merit Badges. Basically Merit Badge requirement completion is at the discretion of the Merit Badge Counselor.

Per the Guide to Advancement, a Scout may work with any Merit Badge Counselor he or she chooses. The MBC to work with is up to the Scout, not the unit or unit leaders. Other than making local MBCs available, there is nothing you can do if a Scout chooses to work with an MBC outside of your Council or Unit.

I have done this for every Merit Badge my Scouts have worked on during the stay at home orders. The MBCs have all updated the record within Scoutbook. I have not distributed nor received any physical Blue Cards.


Thanks I had read some of other forums, but not quite specific enough. We have had a scout earn many badges with no scoutmaster signature virtually. Safety is the main issue and as we have no idea who the scout is working with.

I have reviewed COVID-19 updates as to Merit Badges, still can be vague.

We have a scout working on 13 badges virtually and has not gone to Scoutmaster.
I have read Guide to Advancement
p. 43 “The unit leader and Scout should come to
agreement as to who the counselor will be. Lacking
agreement, the Scout must be allowed to work with the
counselor of his or her choice, so long as the counselor is
registered and has been approved by the council
advancement committee.”
This is the disconnect, if scout is not having the conversation with the Scoutmaster to get approval of Blue Card and the discussion of who to work with is this badge work OK? And if out of council is the merit badge counselor approved by the council advancement committee? Does council refer to council the scout is in or all councils?

Approved by the council advancement committee refers to the Council the MBC is registered in.

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In my troop, our ASM has been authorized by SM and is holding the initial discussions virtually, and our committee advancement team is helping with the MBC connections in Scoutbook - SM is not a tech guy. Our Scouts have access to both the 400 or so counselors in council plus the online offerings, and we are encouraging them to take on as many as their schoolwork will allow. We’ve used both scout-to-counselor connection (through the Invite Counselor button) and counselor-to-scout through the new feature that allows it directly. In that case, the scout (with parent approval) provides name and BSA ID to the remote counselor, and the counselor fills out a form in Scoutbook.
As a troop, we have no say regarding the content of the badge. Everything there is the counselor’s call. Neither the counselor nor the troop can adjust the requirements, but the counselor does have some leeway with interpretation of completeness (depending on requirement wording).

Thank you there is more going on than what I wrote. From the feedback received Scoutbooks is being utilized properly to record merit badge achievements by utilizing the Invite Couselor feature. We have encouraged scouts to work on merit badges, unfortunately guidelinse sent by troop requesting approval/virtual blue cards has not been followed. Our unit is small enough that the SM wants everyone to go to SM for approval per Advancement Guide. I work with another troop where rules are different. I am here to support SM as SM supports me in my role.

One thing Leaders can do is mention to this parent that it will look funny at EBOR if items are signed for their own child by them. Usually that is enough to get a parent to get someone else involved.

I wish that would work, trust me it has been said, as well as, we want to make sure scout doesn’t have any issue in future.

IMHO, it’s time for the SM to arrange an impromptu conference with the scout. Online is fine … include another leader, the parent, etc … The talking points are fairly simple:

  • I heard you were working on some MBs. And I’m filling out your blue cards for when restrictions lift. Can you tell me which badges you’re working on?
    Then for each badge+counselor:
  • Who’s your counselor?
  • How are you communicating with him/her?
  • Is he/she helpful? Do you think other scouts work with him/her for that badge?
  • If the boy expresses a desire for a different counselor, look one up.

Thank the scout for his time and let him know that you look forward to the time when you could hand him his blue cards in person.

If the kid raises some flags, make plans to help him. Otherwise, we really need to cut the drama out of the process. Adult-driven warnings like “It’ll look funny on your Eagle application” are a lot of perseveration for no good reason.

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Thank you for your feedback, the SM had already held a conference call with scout and a troop committee member on the phone line to provide, two deep leadership. This was done after three requests for the information during online meetings and one email sent by Committee Chair.

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