Unfortunately, I could not make it at the last minute to the second life meeting due to ...my first life commitments.
I have sampled second life a few years ago. As I have completely forgotten what my avatar was, I had to create a new one. I went to the place recommended by Sarah, getting used to the interface again. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bandwidth requirements are a lot less than in past. I was able to get away with a 256/128K link, but there were no-one to interact with at the time.
However, a teaching institution having several users using SL at the same time would have issues with the bandwidth used. I can see SL becoming a source of frustration in this situation.
In the second Life Grad Student Colony page, part of a sentence sent me warning messages: … since many of us spend way too much time in SL and not nearly enough time actually studying,…
These kind of environment can suck the life out of you if you are not careful!
Wikipedia, referring to an interesting article from Christine Lagorio in the NY Times mentions that Instructors and researchers in Second Life favour it because it is more personal than traditional distance learning. The article mentions that at the time of writing in 2007 there were numerous institutions using SL. Looking for more recent information, I was expecting to find more info on Eduserve, as the latest report about the use of SL is dated from June 2009. The information did not convinced me that the use of SL is developing at least for the UK.
I have tried to create a group in SL. This would have cost me SL$100. This surely cannot help to create communities. I suppose you could create a teaching institution from scratch on SL, without the need for a physical location, but this would come at a cost.
My approach to new Learning technologies is "How can this help me to improve on what I am doing ". At the present time, I cannot see how SL would help me. I probably lack of experience in using the environment and would have liked to be able to see a demonstration of group interaction in SL. I can see that it would help it the case of language learning. It must also be helpful for other non-technical subject otherwise I dare assuming that it would not be used for educational purposes.
I have no doubt that communities exist in SL, as in everywhere people interact. The kind of interactions happening there would mean that facilitation would be similar to in-person meeting facilitation. One of the source of information mentions that you should limit the open questions asked, to avoid a meeting becoming chaotic.