Hi it's a tough one. At work my colleagues aren't learning professionals but some have engaged with online communities/social learning inadvertantly by asking for support delivering on-line Forums, Communities of Practice and Knowledge Management platforms - it's all just jargon, but it's a more socially acceptable jargon for professionals focussing on delivery. Each one is project specific and some have a life span dependent upon goals, the learning, when it occurs is not always overtly commented on. If that makes sense (I'm not sure it does) but the hook to enagage people has been the promise of improved delivery and the 'learning' that has taken place has often been a pleasant suprise to participants.
I would agree with Jane's argument that the learning is almost an aside. The forums/communities I have been involved in have always been about discussion 'around' a subject or topic, indeed the tangents at which people fly off can be totally unrelated. There is however a compulsion among users to be drawn into these discussions and to be involved where perhaps they would otherwise sit it out - I can't explain the mental decision-making that goes on there but even the quietest voice chooses to be heard on a forum.
Avoiding the term learning is difficult when you're trying to 'sell' to someone - especially the education sector - perhaps get them involved in a forum/community themselves to see just how engaged they get. After that let them know how they have managed to learn informally not least of all the skills needed to part of an online community(!)
Seems like Communities are becoming a hot topic! I've had the privilege of speaking about them and how important they are to learning (I agree totally with Jane - the focus needs to be on the organisation's needs and how they are realised - both by the organisation itself and by individual members of it) . I have just started a series of thoughts about the nature and place of community in the modern organisation on my blog (http://bit.ly/mRgeeW). Maybe there's something there that helps - and watch this space! As a first clue I believe it is critical to look at the nature of the organisation and its alignment to community - then the platforms that are appropriate will become clearer. If the starting point has to be a learning intervention (I hate those words!) then developing a community amongst the learners will certainly enhance both the quality of the learning and its application into the workplace afterwards - but the BIG item here is to design the learning intervention within the context of community, not as an afetr thought or a "component"