Internet Advancement

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Internet Advancement

Postby smtroop168 » Sat May 26, 2012 9:25 pm

There is a post on the linked-in forum relating to IA. I know the BSA is looking to fix the issues with IA and get some better training for all users out there. Take a read and let's see what kind of feedback our forum has

"Is your unit using the Internet Advancement Portal?
My council committed to have every unit use the Internet Advancement portal by June 30. The original date was December 31 of last year, but due to a number of issues encountered, they extended the deadline and it might be extended even further.

The "pros" in using the portal include having a Scout's advancement record updated faster and more accurately than when done via paper through the local council service center, it also contain facilitates the transfer process in the event he moves to another unit, processing/vetting a Scout's Eagle Scout Rank application becomes practically automatic, unit advancement reports can be generated for districts and councils so that units can be provided assistance by commissioners and/or the district advancement committees as needed, etc.

The two units that I am affiliated with (a Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop) both are successfully using the portal; but as a district advancement chair, and tracking issues with the system, I'm finding that some units are resisting utilizing the portal for a number of reasons, including: Internet Explorer compatibility (with Mac users especially), lack of being able to save Cub Scout belt loops and pins, and challenges with file uploads from Packmaster and Troopmaster. I've posted workarounds to some of these in other threads, but thought I would try to capture the good, bad, and ugly in one area of interest.

So, what is your unit's experience in using Internet Advancement (good and bad) and what are the barriers to success if your unit has not started using the portal?"
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Re: Internet Advancement

Postby 6yearscouter » Sun May 27, 2012 12:44 am

My pack has been using internet advancement since it came out or at least as far back as we know of it. I'd have to log in to check the date to be sure, but at least 6 years. My youngest's bobcat badge was one of the first ones we entered and he just earned first class in first year.

with a small number of scouts in the pack, we always just had back up data, and belt loops tracked on an excel spreadsheet.

when the new advancement chair took over 2 years ago, he got packmaster and tried to keep things updated that way. Audits of internet advancemet records using the auto upload feature found lots of missing data. sometimes things just don't upload correctly from packmaster to internet advancement and lack of effective error codes keeps users from catching the errors and hand fixing them right away.

For the troop, they had avoided using internet advancement until I took over the job of getting it updated. The first upload of info kicked out tons of errors. correction of boy's names fixed some of them. hand entered a boatload of others and things were looking pretty good for accuracy. Auto uploads from troop master still don't work right all the time and that is annoying. current advacnement chair seems to be hand entering most awards afer entering them in troopmaster, which certainly isn't saving her any time. I have to help her get on top of that problem before the Aug court of honor.

Biggest issue that we aren't sure how to deal with is 3 board of review signatures should be on rank advancemet report but we don't have internet service at the scout lodge to enter stuff on the fly once BOR are completed. so we still use the 3 part forms for BOR signatures and then enter in internet advancement and then turn in a bopy of both to council to get the awards.
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Re: Internet Advancement

Postby Fred Johnson » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:49 am

I've been using online advancement for several years. Glad to have it. Wish it was better though. Troop uses it regularly for advancement. I use it with the pack to double check 2nd year Webelos advancement so it's up to date before they cross over.

Here's a few of the regular issues.

- Slow to load the roster. Takes minutes! So slow that people give up and try again. I'm betting that puts more stress on the system causing more failures.

- Need multi-person access. As CC, I need access now and then to check things. But I am always concerned I'll impact the advancement chair. i.e. mess up their work.

- Klunky interface. I am very glad to have it as it's invaluable to have access to ScoutNet records. But, it's still a bit 1990s for an interface.
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Re: Internet Advancement

Postby Mrw » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:40 am

I have been using this as long as it has been available to me. It is far faster and much easier than waiting for Council to input advancements. And because I can enter and double check as I go, there are far fewer errors to be corrected. Having to have Coucil correct things incorrectly keyed in was painful!

About the past 5 years, we have been using Troopmaster as well and as long as the boys' names are the same in both programs, I have no issues uploading the data.

Scoutnet is very slow and klunky. It is NOT user-friendly at all. Access does allow me to double check scout records when I need to without a trip to Council to have the records printed out for me. A few months ago they finally made old reports available on IA which is great as sometimes I have printing issues at home and the previous version only allowed you to print the report you just completed right then. I was needing to save each as a pdf to a thumb drive just in case it needed to be printed elsewhere at a later time.

My biggest complain at this point is the three signatures on a report for BOR completion ofr rank badges. Considering that you always could put multiple rank advancements on multiple days on an advancement form, thos signatures never really did mean much for ranks below Eagle. And needing to enter and print the report and then get those signatures no longer makes any sense at all.

The SM also has access to our IA account. We have an agreement that he will never enter any advancement data, so him going to look things up will never cause an issue with my advancement data.
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Re: Internet Advancement

Postby agdparker » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:57 pm

Our council is also trying to get the last straggler units to use IA. I enter the advancement for our Pack and it took quite a bit of work to get it reconciled initially with our records. The interface is archaic, but mostly works. I have found that it can take up to 8 times to get dates to stick on belt loops. I know they don't really matter, but I want to track things as correctly as possible, so I take the time to make sure it sticks. I think it's a great tool for reconciling council records with unit records. I have a class I've done for University of Scouting and a couple of Roundtables that covers, with a section on IA. They are usually well-received and I recommend reconciling unit advancement records with IA at least once a year. I also recommend reconciling the membership a couple of times a year and especially right before recharter packets go out. It's a good way to check and see who's registered, in what positions and if their YPT is up to date. I also use it to pass on the BSA ID to new leaders so they can link it up to their MyScouting account (I have a PDF describing how this is done that I send to the new leaders with their newly-issued ID). We've had problems with new leader and youth apps disappearing at the council office, so using IA to check our roster allows me to check in periodically to make sure things get processed.

For me the priorities should be:
  • Fix the bugs (belt loops, slow unit roster loading)
  • Make the Unit Roster and other buttons on the left accessible when an advancement report is not going. When one is going, it should pull up a fresh copy. There are times where our Troop AC starts an advancement report and leaves it open. If I want to check to see if a new app has been processed without calling the Scout office, I can't right now.
  • Write a new interface that:
    • Supports more browsers
    • Has better handling of paging (MB's, belt loops)
    • Remembers your answer to the survey question (No, I don't want to take it again!!)
    • Allows for flexible date entry
    • Allows for all awards to be imported from third-party advancement programs (some are not currently supported)
    • Have user types (ReadOnly, Full, Administrator, etc)
    • Be able to link the MyScouting account so that a user can long in once and enter advancement for multiple units. Our Scout AC does the troop, team and crew.
    • Be able to run advancement reports out of IA. While third-party advancement software does this well, not all units use these

I work for a software company, so I notice little things. I suspect that ScoutNET will need to be redone before they put any serious work into IA, but I hope I'm wrong. IA is a tool that has limitations, but if you know what it offers it can be useful.
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Re: Internet Advancement

Postby Fred Johnson » Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:51 am

Almost forgot my pet peeve. Why even have a "LOAD" button? Does that mean my unit roster is not easily available? Perhaps a button for creating an advancement set that can be later submitted. But a load roster button? Really?
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